One of the easiest mountain lookout towers to reach as it is only 500ft from the road. Stunning views are found from the top of the tower.
High atop Wayah Bald mountain near Franklin North Carolina is the easy to access Wayah Bald Lookout Tower. At an elevation of 5,342ft this 50ft stone tower, which was originally built in 1937, looks out over a vast section of the Nantahala Nation Forest and beyond. On a good clear day you can see well into Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. Yet, despite the remoteness of the tower, it is very easy to get to via a short paved trail that is only about 500ft in length.
Wayah Bald Lookout Tower is located at the end of the unpaved National Forest Road 69 near Franklin North Carolina. Forest Road 69 is just off Wayah Road at Wayah Gap and is about 4 1/2 miles to the top of the mountain. Look for the sign on Wayah Road. While the road is unpaved, it is generally in pretty good shape and most cars will have no problem reaching the top of the mountain where there is a large area for parking. This area is subject to seasonal closures from January – March or if poor conditions exist. Wayah Bald Lookout Tower is about 45 minutes from Franklin North Carolina. There are restroom facilities at the parking area.
The top of Wayah Bald is a nice area with great views even before you get to the tower. There is a small bald area near the turnaround, along with a few picnic tables in the trees around it. But the main attraction of this area is the fire tower at the top of the mountain.
The obvious and well signed trail starts right where the road curves and enters the parking area. The trail is paved the entire way as you ascend a slight hill up to the tower. There is also an informative signboard near the beginning you could check out before walking up the path.
Once you get up to the tower, there are a few informative plaques as well as plenty of area to relax and enjoy the view. There is a lower section of the tower you can enter if you want but there isn’t much inside to see. The best spot on the tower is found at the top of the stairs. The views from the top of tower are almost endless with a nice, large, covered observation space. It also has additional information plaques that provide more detail about the area. It is a wonderful spot to relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery of Western North Carolina.
Note that part of the mountain top was burned by wildfires in 2016 which actually destroyed the roof of the tower. The area is recovering nicely and a new roof was built on the tower.
When you have finished enjoying the top of Wayah Bald and the Wayah Bald Tower, drive safely back down the mountain and check out some of the other attractions in the area like the Wilson Lick Ranger Station that you will pass on the way down. This was built in 1913 and was the first ranger station in the Nantahala National Forest.