This really was a nice hike and one that we can say we did! While the photos are not sunny and bright, they are a record for me that we were there and found this truly one-of-a-kind lookout tower.
The trail to Green Knob Lookout Tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and straddles the Eastern Continental Divide. The hike is pretty much straight up; and while it’s a short trail, it’s strenuous. But if I can do it, it can be done!
The tower is lost in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains and features 360-views from the platform. However on this day, views were not what we were going to see because we were walking in the clouds and rain was on the way!
We had taken the wrong trail a couple of weeks ago and vowed to return. I just didn’t think it would be so soon. The trail is half a mile to the tower and rarely traveled. We did meet two other hikers going down as we were headed up. Here’s Anne near the top.
Green Knob Lookout Tower is an abandoned fire tower near Mt. Mitchell and located directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The tower boasts an unobstructed view of Mt. Mitchell, Craggy Mountains, Table Rock, Grandfather Mountain, and the Parkway. Unlike most fire towers, this tower is not located on the highest peak of the surrounding mountains thus providing anestled feel. It has one flight of stairs and is sturdy.
If you hike this trail, be sure to follow the white diamonds or blazes. We were at the tower pretty quickly, and it was so sweet standing there in the heavy mist. It is locked currently due to potential vandalism. This is true of most of the historic lookout towers.
Green Knob was staffed through the 1970s, which means someone lived in the cab of the tower and monitored the surrounding landscape for forest fires. On several occasions, it faced the threat of destruction. The tower was repaired in 1996 and restored in 2013. It is one of the first fire towers in North Carolina to be restored. The National Forest Service opens it for special tours and I want to be sure to know the dates so I can step inside. You can find more historic fire lookout towers in North Carolina by clicking on this link.
There was lots of fall color around the tower’s base.
Near the top, all we could see were clouds, but we knew there are plenty of mountains out there! Notice the old electric pole in the mist. This is what carried power up to the tower when it was in use.
Pat looking up at me as I sit near the locked door.
And Anne starting to climb the steps.
Pat laughing at the idea of the rain beginning! We have hiked in so much rain this year!! Did we have rain gear with us? We did—just enough.
And we quickly put it on, covered up the cameras, and headed back down Green Knob to the overlook and the car.
Directions: The hike to Green Knob Lookout Tower begins at Green Knob Overlook (milepost 350.4) on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just five miles north of Mt. Mitchell State Park. The trail is not obvious from the overlook, since there is no signage. We discovered this the hard way! Three weeks ago, we actually took a trail that headed off in the wrong direction and hike nearly two miles before realizing our error near dark. Don’t make that same mistake.
From the overlook, walk about 100 yards north (turn right from the overlook) and look for the signpost for the trail on the opposite side of the road. The narrow 1/2-mile trail gradually gains 340 feet in elevation—not much but enough. It is white blazed and maintained by the volunteers with the North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association. At the summit, the trail makes a sharp right turn. Don’t follow that trail! Follow the pathway that turns slightly to the left a short distance to reach the tower.
Check this link and the photo of Green Knob Lookout Tower and you will quickly see why we wanted to hike to this tower! We’ll be back on a sunny day!!