Blue Ridge Parkway Hike to Green Knob Fire Tower

Last Saturday, we enjoyed the afternoon with a drive 12 miles up the curvy and scenic Highway 80 through our county, McDowell County, to the Blue Ridge Parkway and to a hike we recently read about — from the Green Knob overlook up to an old fire tower on top of Green Knob itself. We were excited about this hike in particular, because you can see the peak of Green Knob rising through a picture-perfect break in the trees at the top of our orchard here at the Inn on Mill Creek:

Green Knob is one of several scenic overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is located at Milepost 350.4. The overlook is around 4,760 feet above sea level and the top of Green Knob is over 5,000 feet in elevation, so the views from both the overlook and the fire tower at the top are pretty spectacular. Here’s our late Spring view from the overlook:

To get to the fire tower on Green Knob, park at the Green Knob overlook and head right/north (with the overlook at your back). A little ways up the Parkway and across the road will be the Forest Service’s trailhead marker for Green Knob; the trail is quite narrow at the start. (The trail is blazed in yellow so watch for yellow markings on the trees to guide you.)

We took the innpugs, Csaba and Bugsy, and we estimate the majority of the trail is about a Csaba-and-a-half wide. Here’s a photo of our fawn “measuring stick” for perspective:

You’ll reach the old fire tower after about a half mile, on a trail surrounded by rhododendron thickets, mountain laurel, ferns and other beautiful foliage.

Climb the stairs to the tower (used by the Forest Service from the 1930s until the ’70s) and enjoy 360-degree views of our mountain range, the Black Mountains. Mt. Mitchell, the Craggies, Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock… they’re all visible from the fire tower. Here’s the view of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern United States (please forgive the hazy shot; the clouds started coming in over Mt. Mitchell just as we climbed the tower):

UPDATE: As of 2013, the fire tower’s actual platform and interior is closed to the public. See our Green Knob Fire Tower Hiking Trail blog post from November of 2014 for an update on the trail and its spectacular views!

The Green Knob hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great hike for late Spring and in the summertime because the higher elevations along the Parkway are typically 10-15 degrees cooler than lower elevations around Black Mountain and Asheville, and you’ll be in the shade for the most part during this hike. Do take water because it is a half-mile climb to the tower, and be prepared for very quick changes in the weather at this elevation.

We hope to get back to the fire tower soon. The innpugs thoroughly enjoyed it (and yes, Csaba’s “rogue tongue” is that long and hangs out the side of his mouth just like that after a hike and a big drink of water).

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