Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail: hiking to a historic steel fire lookout tower on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hike the Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail to stunning summit views from a historic steel fire tower just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville.

trail info

TRAIL LOCATION: South of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt Pisgah

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D DSLR

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

 

South of Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders through some exceptionally stunning landscapes. The oddly-named but easily-accessed Fryingpan Mountain is no exception: rising roughly 350 feet from a trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the views from the mountain’s summit are sweeping and broad. And, thanks to the historic, 70-foot-tall steel fire tower at the mountain’s summit, the views are even better: a short climb up the tower reveals incredible panoramas of the nearby peaks of Looking Glass Rock, Mt Pisgah and Cold Mountain.

Hike the Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, NCAbove: views from the historic fire lookout tower are simply stunning, especially at sunrise

The 1.5 mile, round-trip hike follows the gravel FS 450 road to the Fryingpan Mountain summit, a relatively gentle but nearly continuous climb from the trailhead. In warmer months, the route to the summit travels through wildflowers and wild blueberries, making the hike as scenic as the final destination. This trail scores a fantastic, million-dollar-view off the Blue Ridge Parkway, but on a relatively short and easy hike. And with 360-degree sweeping views of the surrounding Pisgah National Forest, it’s a perfect place to catch a gorgeous sunrise or sunset.

Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail: the hike

The hike 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 gravel road, immediately beginning its ascent to the summit. (There’s a path to the right of the gravel road that leads to the Mt Pisgah campground; follow the road, not the trail.) The hike climbs steadily, wandering through swaths 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.

Wildflowers and wild blueberries line the sides of the Fryingpan Mountain Tower trail in warm summer months

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. The steel lookout tower on the mountain’s summit is visible as the trail rounds the turn.

The hike to Fryingpan Mountain visits a historic steel fire tower near the Blue Ridge Parkway

The hike levels briefly at .5 mile before resuming its climb, making a final uphill stretch to the summit. The trail passes several radio towers near the mountain’s peak: 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 particularly stunning, as morning’s first light blankets the rolling mountain landscape and fog hugs deep into the nearby valleys.

Views from the Fryingpan Mountain summit are beautiful, especially in early morning light

The views from the lookout tower are even better, and while access is closed to the former 12’ x 12’ living quarters at the top, several of the steel tower’s stories and landings are often open for viewing. The 70-foot tower, constructed in 1941, offered a prime lookout for forest fires for decades, and now stands as an excellent scenic lookout.

Hike the Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail to beautiful views from a historic fire tower near Mt Pisgah on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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 trailhead at 1.5 miles, finishing the adventure.

Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

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.)

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

35.395400, -82.768767     //     N35 23.724 W82 46.126

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Elevation Profile

Fryingpan Mountain Tower 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.

Let’s hit the trail, Asheville!   #ashevilletrails

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.

Snap a selfie from a hike to your favorite mountain summit, a group shot of your favorite hiking buddies, or a morning sunrise from your trail run off the Blue Ridge Parkway... we'd love to see your adventures! Share your photos with us! Tag them #ashevilletrails on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We'll share our favorites, as well as our own favorite shots!