Wesser Bald: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Tellico Gap

Hike to the Wesser Bald fire tower on the Appalachian Trail from Tellico Gap, climbing to exceptionally beautiful panoramic views near Franklin, NC.

 

trail info

Wesser Bald rises high above the surrounding valleys in the Nantahala National Forest, an exceptionally beautiful and scenic swash of forest in western North Carolina. And while it’s no longer technically a bald (there’s fairly dense tree cover on the mountain’s summit), the mountain offers outstanding views from its summit, thanks to a metal fire tower and wooden observation deck at the top.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to sublime summit views from the Wesser Bald fire tower near Franklin, NCAbove: hike the Appalachian Trail to the summit of Wesser Bald near Franklin, NC

This hike makes a moderate trek on the Appalachian Trail through a beautiful hardwood forest, climbing from Tellico Gap. At the summit, the hike grabs incredible, 360-degree views from the former fire tower. For such a relatively short hike, under 3 round-trip miles, the views are simply incredible, stretching far and wide.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to the historic Wesser Bald observation tower, and catch gorgeous summit views

Stunning views. A historic fire tower. Gorgeous forest. This stretch of the Appalachian Trail delivers a ton in a relatively short distance, and is one of our all-time favorite hikes near Franklin.

Wesser Bald on the Appalachian Trail: the hike

The hike departs from a gravel parking area on the side of Tellico Rd (SR 1365) at Tellico Gap (view maps and driving directions), following the white-blazed Appalachian Trail westbound from the gap. The hike dives into tree cover, trailing through rhododendron and mountain laurel and passing a wooden Tellico Gap sign.

The AT meanders through wide switchbacks, beginning a nearly-unrelenting climb to the summit. The forest is filled with young hardwoods that tower above leafy underbrush and rooty soil. In the Fall, the oak and maple display brilliant color that contrasts with the evergreen laurel and rhododendron, making the hike exceptionally colorful and beautiful.

The Appalachian Trail hikes through a colorful autumn forest near Wesser Bald

The Appalachian Trail continues its upward climb, reaching the hike’s halfway point at .7 mile just after rounding a switchback. The AT passes a small camp on trail right just as the hike passes the 1 mile mark.

Hike the Appalachian Trail through the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina

The hike veers north, nearing the summit and making a final trek through sharp switchbacks. The trail passes through a clearing at 1.25 miles before darting back into the forest and making a sharp right. Reaching the Wesser Bald summit, the hike passes an overlook before turning right, making a final climb to the fire tower.

Hike to exceptional views from the Wesser Bald fire tower on the Appalachian Trail in NC

The Wesser Bald lookout tower rises from the rocky summit, stretching above the surrounding trees. The metal base is historic, predating a fire in the former USFS fire lookout cab. The current wooden observation platform is a recent addition, and offers a sun-drenched spot to take in the sublime, panoramic view. It’s a fantastic picnic spot, too – and a great place to catch a colorful sunrise or sunset.

Departing the fire tower, the hike flips in reverse, following the outbound trek on the Appalachian Trail to Tellico Gap, and completing the hike at 2.8 miles. In the area with daylight and energy to spare? Chase some more exceptional summit views on the Appalachian Trail with a hike to the Albert Mountain fire tower, a 4-miler on the AT. Or scale the grassy, wildflower-covered summit of Siler Bald to stunning, 360-degree views just off the Appalachian Trail.

 
 
 

Wesser Bald from Tellico Gap: Appalachian Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.268480, -83.572368     //     N35 16.092 W83 34.344

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Wesser Bald on the Appalachian Trail: Elevation Profile

Wesser Bald from Tellico Gap: Appalachian Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.