Fryingpan Mountain Tower: Blue Ridge Parkway hiking near Mt Pisgah
Hike to stunning summit views from a historic steel fire tower just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt Pisgah on the 1.4 mile (roundtrip) Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail.
The Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail follows a small graveled road, FS 450, to the mountain’s summit. It’s a relatively gentle but nearly continuous climb from the trailhead. In warmer months, the hike arcs through wildflowers and wild blueberries on the climb to the top, making the hike itself as scenic as the final destination. At 1.5 miles, roundtrip, it’s a great, million-dollar-view hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway that’s not overly long or strenuous. And with 360-degree sweeping views of the Pisgah National Forest, it’s a great place to catch a gorgeous sunrise or sunset.
Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail: the hike
The Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail departs from a grassy parking area just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 409.6 (view maps and driving directions), several miles south of Mt Pisgah. (Compared to other popular hikes on the Parkway, like Black Balsam Knob and the uber-popular Graveyard Fields waterfalls, the hike’s understated trailhead is easy to miss. Park off the parkway and don’t block the metal gate.)
The hike trails around the metal gate blocking the graveled FS 450, immediately beginning its ascent to the summit. (There’s a trail to the right of the gravel road that leads to the Mt Pisgah campground; follow the road, not the trail.) The hike steadily climbs along the road, trailing through swashes of tall wildflowers and thickets of wild blueberries. The hum of bees fills the cool, breezy summer mountain air as they buzz, hurriedly, from wildflower blossom to blossom.
The hike continues following the gravel road, arcing northwest. The trail makes a sudden, sharp switchback around the mountain’s mid elevations at .4 mile as it continues to climb. Vistas open to the Fryingpan Mountain summit, catching views of the steel lookout tower.
The hike levels briefly at .5 mile before resuming its climb, making a final-stretch uphill to the summit. (The trail passes active radio towers near the mountain’s peak — hikers should follow all warning signs and keep out of restricted areas.) The trail reaches the Fryingpan Mountain summit at .75 mile, catching views from the steel tower’s base. Early-morning vistas to the east are especially stunning, as morning’s first light blankets the rolling mountain landscape and fog hugs deep into the nearby valleys.
The views from the lookout tower at the summit are even better — and while access to the former 12’ x 12’ living quarters at the tower’s top are closed, several of the steel tower’s stories and landings are still open for viewing. The 70-foot tower, constructed in 1941, offered a prime lookout for forest fires for decades, and now stands as a prime scenic lookout.
After savoring the views (and snapping a plethora of Instagram-worthy photos), the hike descends from the tower, retracing its outbound steps along FS450 to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hike reaches the Fryingpan Mountain Tower trailhead at 1.5 miles, completing the hike.
Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail: Directions & Details
Free (but limited) off-road parking is available at the Fryingpan Mountain parking area, MP 409.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)
35.395400, -82.768767 // N35 23.724 W82 46.126