Last Updated on May 19, 2022
Last Updated on May 19, 2022
Wayah Bald Tower is a historic lookout tower in North Carolina (near Franklin) that sits atop Wayah Bald at 5,342 feet. The decommissioned stone lookout tower is a popular stop along the popular Bartram Trail, and it’s also an important landmark along the Appalachian Trail.
You can reach Wayah Bald Tower while hiking or by taking a short walk from your car in the parking lot. The fact that you can drive up to this lookout tower is why it’s so appealing.
Of course, the stunning views that await are the best reason to visit. Our guide will share more on those epic views and everything else you need to know about Wayah Bald Tower.
Here’s how we’ve organized the guide:
- Wayah Bald Tower Facts
- The Watchmen
- How to Reach Wayah Bald Tower (by Hiking)
- Wayah Bald Tower Driving Directions
- When to Visit
- Nearby Places (Wilson Lick Ranger Station, Franklin, and More!)
You can skip ahead to any of those sections or keep reading about some interesting Wayah Bald Tower facts!
Wayah Bald Tower Facts and History
Wayah Bald (“Wayah is Cherokee for “wolf) is a mountain in the Nantahala National Forest near Franklin.
Wayah Bald Tower is an old stone fire tower built in 1937 to protect the forest from fires and other dangers. You can climb to the top for an impressive view of the North Carolina mountains!
The tower is three stories and 53 feet tall. It was decommissioned in the 1940s when cracks started to appear in the stone.
Wayah Bald Tower was listed on the National Historic Lookout Register in 2007.
You’ll notice that a lot of the trees surrounding Wayah Bald are bare. This is because of a wildfire in 2016 that burned the roof of the Lookout Tower.
Community rebuilding efforts (led by Timber Frames) were completed in 2018.
Wayah Bald Tower Watchmen
During the years that it was an active lookout tower, Wayah Bald had an interior stairway, drop-down beds, and living spaces for the watchmen.
The watchmen would live in the tower for two months and have food and water delivered weekly from the Civilian Conservation Corps camp.
How to Reach Wayah Bald Tower (by Hiking)
Wayah Bald serves as a landmark on both the Bartram Trail and the Appalachian Trail.
The Bartram Trail spans 115 miles from Georgia to Cheoah Bald, North Carolina. Wayah Bald is the highest elevation point along the trail and provides a great place for hikers to rest their feet and use the bathroom.
Wayah Bald Tower Driving Directions
The drive up to the lookout tower does involve driving on a gravel Forest Service road and involves some twists and turns. It is not recommended for motorcycles, but a 4WD vehicle is not necessary.
- From Franklin, drive approximately 3 miles west on US-64.
- Turn right at the Wayah Bald sign onto Old Murphy Road followed by a quick left onto Wayah Road.
- Drive a winding 9 miles until Forest Service Road 69 and continue until the road ends approximately 4 miles later.
- Once you arrive, there is a short uphill walk to the tower. The trail is paved and easy for most active adults and children.
Note that there are vaulted toilets and a picnic table at the end of the road. Parking is somewhat limited, but we didn’t have any difficulty finding a spot.
When to Visit Wayah Bald
Wayah Bald Tower is not accessible to drivers from January 1 to April 1 when Forest Service Road 69 is closed.
You can hike through at any time, though we recommend keeping an eye on weather conditions and following official local guidance.
Spring is magnificent at Wayah Bald, but it is an excellent spot for sunrise and sunset throughout the year!
Ready to Visit Wayah Bald Tower?
We think you’ll love Wayah Bald Tower if you haven’t visited before. It’s the perfect stop for hikers and even better after the drive on those Forest Service roads.
The views are hard to beat, and you’ll want to stick around for as long as possible.
If you’ve visited Wayah Bald Tower before, we’d love to know what you think about this place. Is it as grand as we say? Let us know in the comments section or by email.
Wayah Bald Tower is just under two hours from Asheville, making it an excellent day trip from our largest mountain city. However, if you want to make the most out of your visit, here are some suggestions on other things to do near Wayah Bald.
Wilson Lick Ranger Station
Three miles before you reach Wayah Bald on Forest Service Road 69 is a turn for the Wilson Lick Ranger Station. Wilson Lick was the first ranger station in Nantahala National Forest (1913) and provided a great example of early forestry service life.
If you wish to say you’ve hiked a portion of the AT, you can hop on the trail here for a 3-mile hike to Wayah Bald.
Franklin is an adorable mountain town that is situated on top of a steep hill.
Don’t forget to stop by the Scottish Tartans Museum, an excellent place to learn about tartan and Highland dress and heritage.
If you’re hungry, drive out to Haywood Smokehouse‘s Franklin location for a delicious meal of pulled pork and smoked sausage! You can also find Haywood’s in Waynesville and Dillsboro.
The Waterfall Byway
There are pull-off points for at least four named waterfalls in this section. They include the following:
- Cullasaja Falls
- Bust Your Butt Falls
- Dry Falls
- Bridal Veil Falls (different from the Bridal Veil Falls inside DuPont State Recreational Forest)
You can also drive west on US-64 past Franklin and reach Murphy in about an hour. Just before Murphy is a stop-off for the beautiful Lake Chatuge, which straddles the NC-Georgia state line.