Hike the Fryingpan Mountain Tower Trail to stunning summit views from a historic steel fire tower just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville.
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 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.
The 1.5 mile, round-trip hike follows the gravel FS 450 road to the mountain’s 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 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: 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.
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 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.
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.
After savoring the view, 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.
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
Free (but limited) off-road parking is available at 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