Find and explore the historic fire lookout towers that still remain in the North Carolina mountains. Many were built in the 1930s by the US Forest Service with live-in cabs atop to watch for wildfires. By the 1990s, aerial detection by planes and reporting by the public via cell phones became more cost effective and time efficient. While the majority of fire towers across North Carolina were dismantled following their decommissioning, about 25 survive throughout the state for visitors to climb for a birds-eye view.
Most were built thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), comprised of young men and World War I veterans. Thanks to the Forest Fire Lookout Association, the remaining towers are being restored and placed on the National Historic Lookout Register. If you want to find all the towers in the state, buy Peter Barr's history and trail guidebook "Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers". Below are seven towers you can visit atops mountains near Asheville.
Fire Lookout Towers near Asheville
Wesser Bald Lookout Tower
Hike to this 30-foot tall tower atop Wesser Bald on the Appalachian Trail for 360-degree mountain views of the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near the Nantahala… read more
Wayah Bald Fire Tower
From Wayah Bald at 5,342 ft. in the Nantahala National Forest near Franklin, see panoramic views to the Great Smoky Mountains. A short walk from the summit parking area takes you to the 1937 stone… read more
(1.5 miles round-trip, moderate) See panoramic views of Pisgah National Forest from atop the historic fire tower near Mt Pisgah. Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 409.6.
(5.4 miles round-trip, strenuous) Atop Mt. Sterling (5,842 ft. elevation) is the historic, 60-ft. tall steel fire lookout tower with nice views. You will climb 2,000 ft. in elevation.
Green Knob Tower
(1 mile roundtrip, moderate) Get a close up view of the historic fire lookout tower visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway - with views Mt. Mitchell from its staircase. Parkway Milepost 350.
(11.8 miles round-trip, strenuous) The hike up from Big Creek is a 5.9-mile constant climb with a gain of about 3,000 ft. in elevation. The stone fire tower on top affords fabulous views as your… read more
Rich Mountain Lookout Fire Tower
Drive to or hike the Appalachian Trail to enjoy the panoramic mountain views from atop the historic lookout tower near Hot Springs.