A short and moderate hike with big views from atop the historic fire tower on the summit of Albert Mountain.
Sitting atop Albert Mountain, in the Nantahala National Forest of Western North Carolina, is the 55ft tall Albert Mountain Fire Tower that offers excellent views of the surrounding mountains and beyond. On a good clear day you can see as far as the Great Smoky Mountains to the North or the Great Balsam Mountains to the east. While you can’t access the upper section of the tower, the stairs are accessible which puts you just below the enclosed section of the tower where the views are still outstanding from the 5,200ft summit of Albert Mountain.
The trailhead for Albert Mountain Fire Tower is located at the end of Ball Creek Road in the town of Otto North Carolina. Ball Creek Road is unpaved but generally in good condition and accessible for most vehicles. It is, however, subject to seasonal restrictions and is usually closed during the winter months. You approach from either Highway 23 to the east or Highway 64 to the west where the trailhead will be 12 or 13 miles from the highway. There is some signage on Ball Creek Road as it turns and heads up the mountain. Albert Mountain Fire Tower is about 60 minutes from Franklin North Carolina or Clayton Georgia. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead .
The hike to the tower is only about 1/2 a mile one way. From the parking area, follow the gated trail at the back of the lot. Look for the blue blazes on this section of the trail. This part of the hike has only a very moderate incline and is very pleasant. Fairly quickly, after only about a quarter of a mile, you encounter the white blazed Appalachian Trail where you will turn right and follow this well known trail up to the tower. This section of the hike is much steeper but you are only on it for another quarter of a mile before it levels off and you reach the summit of Albert Mountain where the fire tower stands watch over the area. Incidentally, the tower is also the 100 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail.
The summit area is very spacious and has a fenced or protected view looking off to the west where there is an informative signboard which describes the history of the tower and identifies many of the peaks off in the distance. To get the best view, however, you will want to carefully climb the three flights of stairs to the platform just below the top section of the tower. From here you will be just above the trees and have views in every direction. It is a big reward for such a short hike.
When you have finished enjoying your time at the top of Albert Mountain, hike safely back down to the parking area. This area has a number of other short hikes to some great destinations so be sure to visit them while you are in the area.