This trip in the fall of 2022 will lead me on a 14-day hiking tour of northern Georgia, southern Tennessee and a slice of North Carolina.
This week: Visiting two equally exciting mountain tops in North Carolina. The first is barely a 500ft hike from the parking area, the other a short, but tough ascent. Both STUNNING!
Last night I found a good boondocking spot at the bottom of Wayah Bald and spent a quiet night along the deserted access road. What I found out later, was the parking area at the top of the mountain, which was probably not as isolated, but would have given me a better sunset, a night sky and earlier morning access to the former fire tower.
Wayah Bald Fire Tower
Only the lower floor is left of the old stone fire tower, that was built in 1937 by the CCC. The former fire tower had an interior stairway to the second story, where an external wooden catwalk encircled a public observation level enclosed by 12 windows. The third story housed fire-detecting equipment and served as the lookout, with 16 windows providing a 360-degree view of the Nantahala National Forest.
By the mid-1940s, cracks began to develop in the stone tower, and since there were other nearby lookouts, the fire detection service at Wayah Bald was stopped in 1945. Two years later, the forest service removed the upper levels of the tower for safety reasons.
The tower is an extra feature of this mini hike, but unnecessary to obtain a truly magnificent view of the landscape around it. The Appalachian Trail also passes by here, so you will likely see and meet these thru-hikers.
I was lucky to be here at sunrise and see the valleys filled up with clouds, like a sea full of foam. The remoteness and quiet surroundings will impress you!
Wilson Lick Ranger Station
Half way down the mountain this historic ranger station gives you a glimpse of a bygone era of forestry. Built in 1916, Wilson Lick Ranger Station was a remote outpost; see the historic structures and read about the history of forestry.
Albert Mountain Fire Tower
Albert Mountain is a mountain in North Carolina’s Nantahala Range of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail goes along its summit, which is around 5,200ft high. A fire tower offers views of the Blue Ridge and the Little Tennessee River valley.
A log lookout cabin has existed on Albert’s Mountain since as early as 1942, but in 1951, a steel tower was built on Albert Mountain’s summit to replace the abandoned lookout towers on Big Pinnacle Mountain and Standing Indian Mountain.
The steel tower has a height of 55 feet and offers views of the Nantahala Mountains, the Little Tennessee River Valley, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Great Balsam Mountains.
While you can park nearby or closer to the lookout tower, I found a great spot to park at approximately 1.5 miles from the summit. From there, an easy trail follows the ridge to the tower, which offers numerous views of the surrounding area. The second half of the trail is steep and slow going, yet so rewarding once you reach the actual Fire Tower. As usual, Joey lead the way.
Ammons & Holcomb Creek Falls Boondocking
Later that day, I found a perfect spot for a quiet boondocking experience at the trailhead of the Ammons & Holcomb Creek Falls. I was ready for tomorrows first hike.
- Wayah Bald Fire Tower ➜ 35.1801, -83.5608
- Wilson Lick Ranger Station ➜ 35.1628, -83.5845
- Albert Mountain Fire Tower TH ➜ 35.0354, -83.4701
- Ammons & Holcomb Creek Falls Boondocking ➜ 34.9810, -83.2734