Hike to Shuckstack Fire Tower

North Carolina Fontana Dam Trailhead

Added by Bradley Burgess

Outstanding views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Lake Fontana, as well as the Unicoi, Nantahala, and Snowbird just might make this one of the best fire tower hikes in Western North Carolina.

Your Shuckstack adventure starts at the Fontana Dam outside of Bryson City, NC. As the highest dam East of the Rocky Mountains, it's a sight on its own. This will be your last chance to fill up water bottles and use the restroom so take advantage.

You can leave on foot from the dam and continue along the Appalachian Trail or drive across it and veer right to get to the trailhead. Driving will save you a half mile of walking along the road. As soon as you set foot on the trail you're in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the trail begins ascending immediately. For most of the next three miles you'll be ascending, so pace yourself for the climb. After 3.5 miles of steady climbing you'll see the AT veer off to the left and a side trail continues straight ahead. Follow the side trail 1/10th of a mile to the tower. The 360 degree views from the 80 foot high tower are worth every step it took to get there! The room at the top of the tower has fallen into disrepair, so use caution if you choose to enter it. The tower may sway slightly, but don't be alarmed, its designed to give a little due to the constant wind on the ridge. Once you've gotten your breath back, enjoy the stunning views from the top!

Pack List

Backpack, water bottle, camera, trail snacks, sturdy shoes/boots, and a jacket.

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Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



7 Miles

Elev. Gain:

2100 Feet




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How to Get There

6 months ago

Great Intermediate Hike

This is an amazing hike and gives you a chance to explore Fontana Dam and experience epic views of the Fontana Lake from Shuckstack. It is a bit strenuous, but being only 3.5 miles to the tower, it is fairly easy to complete if you are in good shape. I went with my grandfather and he did not slow us down too much(though he used to be an avid hiker). All in all a fantastic hike!

6 months ago

7 months ago

Awesome But Strenuous

I loved this hike. It's probably one of my favorite ones I've ever done. But if you do choose to go during the fall, there will be leaves everywhere. With that comes a lot of slipping and sliding and falling. I know because it happened to me. This makes the hike much more difficult than it has to be. So make sure you have a really nice pair of hiking shoes because tennis shoes will not cut it. But overall it was great. It was beautiful at the top. Sadly you can no longer sit on the roof of the tower as you could before. I would recommend this to anyone. P.S. If you choose to go make sure that there is no construction on the dam because of so you will have to start the hike from the beginning of the dam rather than the trail head

7 months ago

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