The historical landmark, Green Knob Lookout Tower. A fun and unique hiking destination off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Sitting just off the Blue Ridge Parkway up on a ridge overlooking the entire area is the unique hiking destination of Green Knob Lookout Tower. Briefly visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway as you approach the Green Knob Overlook Lot from the North, the tower offers panoramic views in all directions including Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain in the Eastern USA. It is a short but strenuous 1/2 mile hike up to the tower via a lesser traveled trail off the Green Knob Overlook.
The trailhead for the Green Knob Lookout Tower is about 100 yards north of the Green Knob Overlook parking lot located at milepost 350.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is about 5 miles north of Mt. Mitchell State Park or 6 miles south of the Highway 80 intersection of the parkway. The parking lot isn’t very large but this isn’t a very well known or popular spot so it is rare that the parking lot would be too full. The overlook is about 1 hour 15 minutes from Asheville NC.
There are no signs at the overlook for the tower trail; you just have to walk North along the parkway for about 100 yards to find a small brown trail indicator on the side of the road.
The trail immediately starts climbing up the side of the ridge via a number of switchbacks. It really doesn’t let up much and you will be ascending the majority of the 1/2 hike up to the tower. The trail is somewhat thin and it is along some steep ledges at times, but it is well maintained, easy to follow and marked well with white blazes. There are two other trail intersections on the hike up but just keep following the white blazes. Just as you reach the top and your ascent and the trail starts to level off, you should start seeing the tower.
The tower was constructed in 1931 by the US Forest Service and was staffed through the 1970’s. It was restored in the 90’s and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The top section of the tower isn’t open to the public at this time because of past vandalism problems. You can still hike to it and climb the stairs as high as the base of the top section. There is also a yearly hike that is hosted by the High Peaks Trail Association that provides access to the top of the tower so that you can enjoy the full view that is available from this historical treasure of the Pisgah National Forest. You can learn more by visiting their website at www.NCHighPeaks.org.
When you are done enjoying the tower, hike safely back down the ridge to the Green Knob Overlook parking lot.