Looking for the best observation decks and towers to see the most dramatic panoramic mountain views near Asheville? Here are our favorite 10 scenic perches for a birds-eye view of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. They are all free to visit.
Mt. Mitchell (photo at top) is our number one place to go since it's the highest peak in Eastern United States (elevation 6,684 feet). A short walk from the summit parking area is their circular deck with a 360-degree view. On clear days, see 100 miles. However, the lofty peak is often covered in clouds. Also, take a jacket since it's usually 20 degrees cooler than the city of Asheville. The North Carolina State Park has much to see and explore. See our Mt. Mitchell Guide.
Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - only 41 feet lower than Mt Mitchell. The summit observation tower is open April-November. Like Mt. Mitchell, you can drive to near the summit. A steep half-mile paved trail takes you to the tower. Fantastic spot to watch the sunrise. See our Clingmans Dome Guide.
Wiseman's View has multiple stone overlooks on the edge of Linville Gorge, looking toward iconic Table Rock and Hawksbill Mountains and down 1,500 in elevation to the river. It's an easy stroll from the parking area in Pisgah National Forest. See our Wiseman's View Guide.
Craggy Pinnacle has our favorite 360-view on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You'll often be above passing clouds at this 5,892 foot peak. It does require a 3/4 of a mile hike to reach - but the trail is scenic and climbs gradually. It's a super scenic 24-mile drive from downtown Asheville. See our Craggy Pinnacle Guide.
Chestoa View Overlook is a must-stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's perched at 4,000 feet elevation on a ridge with a sweeping panorama - a short walk from the parking area. See our Chestoa View Guide.
Wayah Bald Lookout Tower sits at 5,342 feet elevation in the Nantahala National Forest. Built in 1937, its located near Franklin and the Nantahala River rafting area. Drive a forest service road to the top, where a short paved trail takes you to the tower. See our Wayah Bald Lookout Guide.
Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower along the Blue Ridge Parkway gives you an unsurpassed 360-degree view of the many mountain ranges of Pisgah National Forest. Hike about 3/4 of a mile up the forest service road from the Parkway. At 70 feet, it's the tallest fire tower that was built in western North Carolina. While the very top deck is off limits, you have plenty of places to gaze from the various landings and steps. See our Fryingpan Lookout Tower Guide.
Fontana Dam is not the typical observation deck. Walk or drive across the top of the dam for spectacular views on both sides. In fact, the Appalachian Trail follows this path. At each end of the dam, find additional observation areas with views of the tallest dam in eastern USA and its lake. See our Fontana Lake & Dam Guide.
Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks give you those panoramic mountain views from your car. Many have picnic tables or space for a blanket to sit and soak it all in. See our Blue Ridge Parkway Guide for our Top 50 Stops along the way.