Mt. Sterling Hike, Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Asheville

Mt. Sterling Hike, Great Smoky Mountains

Atop Mt. Sterling (5,842 ft elevation) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the historic, 60 ft. steel fire lookout tower built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This is the highest elevation of any fire tower remaining in the eastern USA. From the top of the Mt. Sterling Tower, you overlook Cataloochee Valley, the Pigeon River Gorge, the Unaka Mountains, the main ridge of the Smokies, the Black Mountains (east), and the end of the Southern Appalachians.

The 2.7-mile hike from Sterling Gap is strenuous since you climb 2,000 feet in elevation. It's a steady climb since the trail is a former jeep access road. At 1/2 mile up the trail, the Long Bunk Trail intersects. Continue climbing for two miles until you reach the ridgeline. Turn right on the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail and the Tower will be about 4/10 mile on the right. There are no views from the base of the tower. You will need to climb to enjoy the panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Wildflowers Great Smoky Mountains

Back Country Campsite #38 is at the base of the tower. Water is 1/4 mile down the Baxter Creek Trail on the left. You could even spend the night in the small cab atop the tower. Mt. Sterling was known as the Devil's Bedchamber to early Cherokee hunters.

Since the beautiful Cataloochee Valley is nearby, you should definitely see the elk, the historic structures and more hiking trails there. Another tower is located on neighboring Mt. Cammerer

Find more historic fire lookout towers to climb in the NC mountains.

Mt. Sterling

Directions: Take exit 20 from I-40 and go west on U.S. Highway 276. Take the first right on Cove Creek Road and drive 15.7 miles. All but a few miles of this road is unpaved, curvy and bumpy. So allow plenty of driving time. At about 7.5 miles, you will see the turn-off to Cataloochee Valley. Continue straight to Mt. Sterling, following signs for Crosby.

Just a little north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Wildwater's Pigeon River Adventure Center, conveniently located near I-40, making it an easy... read more
The Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its streams, hiking trails and waterfalls. In addition, you can tube, mountain bike... read more
This picturesque valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to many historic buildings and the majestic elk.... read more
Forest Order Effective July 2021-June 2023: Due to overuse of the land, there is a Forest Order in effect to protect this special place. Please read the restrictions below so you can safely enjoy Max... read more