Hike to the Wesser Bald Tower on the Appalachian Trail in NC, climbing to exceptionally beautiful panoramic views from a historic lookout tower near Tellico Gap.
LOCATION:on the Appalachian Trail near Franklin, NC
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
Free parking is available at the trailhead. Before you go, check for seasonal trail and road closures on the USFS Nantahala National Forest site.
35.268480, -83.572368 // N35 16.092 W83 34.344