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Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower (How to Reach NC’s Tallest Fire Tower)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on January 23, 2024.

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Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower in Pisgah National Forest is the tallest fire tower in North Carolina. From here, you’ll find beautiful and expansive panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.

Located in Transylvania County and just 22 miles from Asheville, Fryingpan Tower is a popular spot. It’s also just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 409.6) and easily reachable via a short, gently uphill hike.

Our guide will share hiking details and driving directions, along with some history and tips to help you enjoy Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower.

Here’s how we have organized things, in case you’re looking for something specific:

  • About Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower
  • How to Get There (Driving Directions)
  • The Fryingpan Mountain Tower Hike
  • Views from Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower
  • Safety Tips
  • Leave No Trace Reminder
  • Nearby Blue Ridge Parkway Stops and Hikes
  • More Blue Ridge Parkway Guides
  • More Things to Do in Western North Carolina (Related Posts)

Read More: The Best NC Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Asheville area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

About Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

The United States Forest Service built Fryingpan Tower in 1941, and it is the tallest lookout tower in Western North Carolina. Named for Fryingpan Gap by pioneers, this lookout tower was used to watch for long-range wildfires until the 1990s.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 70-foot tower is a wonderful stop off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Read More: 80+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (The Asheville Bucket List)

How to Get There (Driving Directions)

To reach Fryingpan Tower, drive approximately 22 miles south of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Milepost 409.6. There will be a Forest Service Road with a gate.

Please do not park directly in front of the gate because service and emergency vehicles may need to access it.

Do note that this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Shining Rock Wilderness) is often closed during the winter for snow and ice. If you visit during the winter, park at Wagon Road Gap. Parking here will add about 2 miles to your trip. 

The best time to visit Fryingpan Tower is from April to October. The area bustles with people during peak fall colors and the stunning views that await.

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

The Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower Hike

The Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower hike.

The hike itself to Fryingpan Tower is only 1.5 miles round-trip along an old service road. It is gravel and has a 350-feet change in elevation, making it pretty manageable for small children.

Our little one walked the entire hike and even picked up some rocks along the way! 

Read More: The Best Hikes near Asheville

Views from Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

More views of Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

While the top of Fryingpan Tower is locked for safety and preservation, epic panoramic views can still be seen from the tower’s stairs. Beware that there are many steps and the wind can be fierce–dogs and small children may not be too enthusiastic about climbing the tower.

From the tower, you can see Cold Mountain’s magnificent views, Looking Glass Rock to the south, and the great ridges of North Carolina’s mountains (including Mount Mitchell

Read More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Safety Tips

Go to Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower 1

The wind can be fierce on the stairs at Frying Pan Tower NC. Always exercise caution and know your limits. It doesn’t take much of a climb to get great views, so you do not need to climb to the very top.

We often hear reports that the cab of the tower is unlocked. You can choose for yourself to enter it, but understand that you take on some risks by doing so. The cab is locked to preserve this historic fire lookout tower, so its inside will not be maintained.

Leave No Trace

Always leave North Carolina more beautiful than you found it by picking up any trash and taking your belongings with you! Leave no trace of your presence to ensure we can preserve this beautiful land for generations to come.

Ready to Visit Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower near Asheville

We love the history behind Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower but come on, we know most people come for those breathtaking views and the gorgeous Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower photos. It’s a truly wonderful place and one that’s easy to overlook.

If you’ve visited this awesome spot off the Blue Ridge Parkway, we’d love to hear about your experiences. In case you haven’t made it out there yet, we’d love to know about your first time there.

Please feel free to let us know in the comments and bonus points for photos shared in our Facebook Group!

Nearby Blue Ridge Parkway Stops and Hikes

Graveyard Fields Lower Falls near Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

Mount Pisgah (MP 408.6) is the closest Blue Ridge Parkway landmark to Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower in Canton NC

It was once was owned by the Vanderbilts of Biltmore Estate fame. The Mount Pisgah Campground and Pisgah Inn are here today. Another mile north is the Mount Pisgah Summit Trail (MP 407.7), which leads to rewarding views of the mountains.

Read More: How to Enjoy Christmas at Biltmore

To the south is Cold Mountain (MP 411.9), one of NC’s 40 named peaks that tower over 6,000 feet.

Also down the road from Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower is Skinny Dip Falls, which starts across the road from the beautiful Looking Glass Rock Overlook (MP 417).

Graveyard Fields (MP 418.8) is right around the corner. This easy waterfall hike is worth stopping by (and there are bathrooms at this Milepost!).

We’ve featured many more Blue Ridge Parkway stops and hope you’re able to make it out on this amazing scenic road!

More Blue Ridge Parkway Guides

More Things to Do in Western North Carolina

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