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7 Fire towers you should visit in the Eastern U.S.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Fire towers were once an essential part of fire prevention and suppression practices across the country. People would sit in the towers 24/7, scanning the skies and reporting signs of smoke for immediate investigation. Today, many of these towers are retired and have become destinations for adventurers to get a great view and even set up camp for the night. Here are 7 towers to add to your bucket list!

Note: Please maintain extreme caution when climbing fire towers. Check with local authorities (like state parks or the DNR) to learn whether it's legal to climb these structures. Some are well-taken-care-of and others are not maintained and can be very dangerous. You are responsible for your safety.

1. Rich Mountain Fire Tower - Hot Springs, NC

Photo by Matthew Szucs.

Visit Cherokee National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains to reach this beautiful locale. The tower is around 100 feet off a five-mile gravel road and provides a perfect place to rest mid-hike. Outbound user Jared recommends hanging a hammock from the support beams at ground-level or inside the tower so long as it's not lightning! Keep an eye on the weather to stay safe. For additional area hikes, check out the entire Hot Springs area!

2. Pickett State Fire Tower - Jamestown, TN

The Civilian Conservation Corp built this tower in the 1930s! Climb it to enjoy 360-degree views of Pickett State Park and the Big South Fork River. There are "climb at your own risk" signs at the base of the tower, but visitors are allowed to head to the top. The tower is located in the 20,887-acre park, which offers many hiking and exploring opportunities.

3. Yellow Mountain Fire Tower - Cullowhee, NC

Image by Brian Heape.

You'll want to download the offline map for this remote location - people often struggle to locate the trailhead off Forest Service Road Pv1149a. You may lose phone service, so make sure to download the map ahead of time so you can make the 1.5-mile trek and enjoy the incredible views of Yellow Mountain! The tower is not especially tall, but the peak gives it enough lift to see for hundreds of miles around! From paddling whitewater to hiking to waterfalls, there's a lot do to outdoors near Cullowhee!

4. Pinnacle Knob Fire Tower - Williamsburg, KY

Photo by John Clairmont.

The 1-mile hike to this tower features a wide, easily-navigable trail that ends in some stairs. Outbound users swear it's worth the burning calves to see this unique tower and the views of the Cumberland Valley area. The tower is listed on the National Historical Lookout Register because if it's "historical and cultural significance to forest fire detection ..." There are specific visiting hours for entering the tower, but the hike is usually open to the landing below the tower. This trail is sometimes closed in the winter and fall due to inclement weather. Williamsburg offers plenty of hiking opportunities to see waterfalls and wander near natural stone arches. You're sure to find something to do here! 

5. Oak Hill Fire Tower - Concord, NH

A first-person POV at toned legs in blue and yellow running shoes. The person is standing on the steps to a fire tower.
Photo by Sara Sheehy.

If you climb this tower, you may see the surrounding Lakes Region. Visitors can even see the White Mountains on clear days! The hike to the tower is around 3 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain. Outbound users noted it's an easy stroll for families and those interested in a lunch break adventure from nearby Concord. The trail is mostly wooded, offering some shade on even the hottest days. Concord has many beautiful nature trails through forests and along waterways like the Merrimack River.

6. Owls Head Mountain Fire Tower - Long Lake, NY

The view through the windowed corner of the fire tower. There are trees and lakes below.
Photo by Janet Thomas.

This 6.2-mile hike takes many people around half a day to ascend 1500 feet to the tower and return to the trailhead. The tower is partially enclosed, but you can see the thick forest and lakes below so long as the weather is clear! On the hike, expect some wet and muddy areas, a few boardwalks, and even an off-shoot to an old ranger's cabin! Keep your ears to the sky as you walk and you just might hear (and then see!) a seaplane headed to nearby Long Lake. This region is known for canoeing opportunities and hikes around lakes and near waterfalls.

7. Elmore Mountain Fire Tower - Wolcott, VT

A person with long hair is standing in a fire tower looking out over trees and lakes. The trees are autumnal colors and the person wears a black beanie, blue vest, and green long-sleeved shirt.
Photo by Leah Joy.

Dog-lovers flock to this 5.6-mile out-and-back hike of varying degrees of difficulty. Outbound users note the trail starts easy and then grows slightly more difficult before some challenging rocky areas. If you bring a pup, keep them leashed. You can access the tower even if the park is closed by starting in the lower parking lot aka the day-use area. Shave 1.4 miles off the walk when the park is open by starting at the upper parking lot! Make sure to stop at the old cabin site to see the remains of a structure that burnt down, including an old bed and oven. There are many hikes nearby, especially in Mount Mansfield State Forest.

Feature image by Brian Heape.

Check out the 7 Fire towers you should visit in the Western U.S.!

We turned this article into a list on the Outbound Collective app so it's easy to save the hikes you're interested in! Download the app and click the link above. If you're signed in, you can save the towers you want to visit to your profile and even download offline info to start your next adventure.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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