Frying Pan Mountain Lookout Tower sits atop Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The tower was built in 1941 and is around 70 feet tall. It provides panoramic views of Cold Mountain, Shining Rock Wilderness Area, and Mount Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Rockies. The trail is marked by a gated gravel road (Forest Service Road 450) just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway between mileposts 409 and 410. It’s about a .7 mile hike from the road to the tower, uphill the whole way. It’s not a bad trek. You see lots of elderly people making it. Note that this section of the Parkway is usually closed due to ice from October to April. Check for road closures before heading out.
Views from the tower are rivaled only by the panorama from Black Balsam Knob. You can’t access the cabin at the top, but you can climb the stairs to the trap door.
The best time I ever had there was when a pop-up storm brought dense fog and hurricane-force winds. You could actually lean into the wind and not fall over. Smart people would stay off the tower in those conditions. I decided it was more important to capture the moment on film than to hold onto the rails.
For comparison, this is what the view looks like on a clear day.
Frying Pan Mountain Lookout Tower might be a quick hike, but it’s a destination in and of itself. It’s not far from Skinny Dip Falls and Black Balsam Knob, which is probably my favorite area on the Parkway. You can do both in the morning and then have a late lunch at the nearby Pisgah Inn. I recommend the trout.
I should add that black bears are very active in this area and associate humans with easy meals. Although I don’t really advocate taking bear spray on long hikes, it probably couldn’t hurt to take it on short walks like this so close to popular campgrounds.