A unique hiking destination along the Blue Ridge Parkway that offers beautiful and wide views of the surrounding mountains.
Sitting just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Southern Pisgah National Forest is the 70-foot tall Frying Pan Lookout Tower that was built in 1941 and is the tallest US Forest Service lookout tower in Western North Carolina. Listed in the National Register of Historical Places, the views from atop Frying Pan Lookout Tower are quite possibly the best in the area even though the top section of the tower is usually locked and inaccessible to hikers.
The trailhead for the Frying Pan Lookout Tower is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 409.6 where forest road 450 intersects the parkway. There isn’t a sign for the tower but the forest road is clearly marked and easy to see from the parkway. You can park along the road but be sure not to block the gate for the forest road. The trailhead is only about 40 minutes from Asheville North Carolina or 90 minutes from Greenville South Carolina.
This out and back hike is only 1.5 miles total and follows the narrow forest road 450 up to the summit of the ridge. It is a semi-moderate hike with a steady but gradual incline that is easily followed; even if you are walking down at dusk after watching the sunset from the tower. As you make your final turn to parallel the ridge, the tower will come into view at the top of ridge. There is a lot of communication and weather equipment that also share this ridge but just walk past all of this to the base of Frying Pan Tower.
Frying Pan Tower is a remnant of the days before satellite imagery when rangers used to man towers to keep a watch for fires that would have threatened the forest. Now it is a popular and unique hiking destination that provides breathtaking views in almost every direction. While you can’t access the top enclosed area of the tower, there are numerous spots along the stairs that are plenty high enough to give you spectacular views of the surrounding forest and landmarks like Looking Glass Rock, Mt. Pisgah, and Cold Mountain.
It is usually much cooler and windier at the tower so come prepared. When you are done enjoying the tower, hike safely back down the ridge to the parking lot.