Wesser Bald: hiking the Appalachian Trail from Tellico Gap

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

trail info

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

Hike the Appalachian Trail to the historic Wesser Bald observation tower, and catch gorgeous summit viewsAbove: hike the Appalachian Trail to a fire lookout tower on Wesser Bald

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 distance (under three miles, round-trip), the views are simply amazing, stretching far and wide.

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

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 (NC 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. Young hardwoods fill the forest, towering above the leafy underbrush and rooty soil. In autumn, 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 the trail’s right just after the 1-mile mark.

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

The trail 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 mountain, 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.

The hike departs the fire tower and flips in reverse, following the outbound trek on the Appalachian Trail to Tellico Gap, and completing the hike at 2.8 miles.

Nearby fire lookout tower hikes on the Appalachian Trail

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.

Appalachian Trail to Wesser Bald: 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, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a cell phone signal to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.268480, -83.572368     //     N35 16.092 W83 34.344

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail, Wesser Bald fire lookout tower from Tellico Gap: Elevation Profile

Appalachian Trail to Wesser Bald 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.

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Western North Carolina's beauty is simply stunning. From Asheville's urban biking and running trails to the curvy meanders of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and from the towering heights of Mount Mitchell to the shady, cool, waterfall-filled valleys of the Pisgah National Forest, there's a whole lot of outdoor beauty to be seen in Western NC.

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