This largely undiscovered region of the Appalachian Mountains offers a quiet, off the beaten path opportunity for amazing outdoor recreation year-round. Winter may be considered the offseason, but the mild climate with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s during the day, provides an excellent setting for outdoor activities in Carter County.
Many visitors come to hike the 100 miles of Appalachian Trail that runs through Carter County. Carter County does have seasonal snowfall, particularly in the mountains, however travel is still largely accessible. Many winter hiking attractions are best seen in the winter such as Roan Mountain, Blue Hole waterfall, and Laurel Fork Falls. These trails are easy to access year-round and offer scenic views of the mountains and rivers.
Hunting and fishing expeditions continue in Carter County through the first week of January each year. There are several local sportsmen and outdoor guided tours available to take guests on a once in a lifetime hunt through scenic parts of the region, only accessible by foot. Carter County offers hunting throughout the year for big game, small game, and waterfowl.
World-class fishing is available on Watauga Lake and in the Watauga and Doe Rivers. Watauga Lake boasts 6400 acres and over half of it’s shoreline is undeveloped National forest land. The abundance of public land makes Watauga an excellent reservoir for bank fishing and camping. Just past Wilbur Dam, there is a handicapped-accessible fishing pier at the Rat Branch access area. Smallmouth, walleye, and trout are the most popular game fish for Watauga anglers. The average temperature on Watauga Lake in the winter is 48-50 degrees for the high and dips into the ’30s at night. Bright blue skies, miles of water, and adventure make the chilly start worthwhile.
There are over a dozen streams in Carter County and the Doe River is a must-see for any angler. The Doe, Watauga, and Elk Rivers are all known for their abundance of native brown trout and rainbows, as well as the easy access throughout the county. The section most traveled is the renowned trophy trout section of the Watauga River between Elizabethton and Johnson City. This section of the river is a hidden gem for anglers, not only for fishing but enjoying the beautiful scenery. The Doe River Fishing Trail, near the town of Roan Mountain, offers easy access to a number of prime locations for bank fishing.
For cycling enthusiasts, Carter County offers 10 miles of chat to explore along the Tweetsie Trail and for mountain bikers the Hampton Watershed trails offer several miles of singletrack. The Tweetsie Trail is a rails to trails project offering an easy, family-friendly ride through Elizabethton TN. Well maintained trail, with safety crossings at all the main intersections throughout town make it easy to ride from one end of the trail, stopping in downtown Elizabethton and finishing the course just a few miles beyond. Biking this well-traveled favorite is a must.
The Watershed Trails located in Hampton TN, feature a connected system of loops ranging from easy to difficult. The trail’s terrain winds through the woods and offers mountain and river views. The lower loops are great for beginner to intermediate riders, while experts can enjoy themselves on the challenging upper loop known as “The Cat’s Pajamas”.
Carter County is a wonderful getaway to enjoy outdoor recreation year-round, and winter offers an abundance of activities for all ages in the mild climate, surrounded by quaint towns you’ll want to return to again and again.
Visit www.tourcartercounty.com to start planning your next adventure!