Barnett Knob Lookout Hike Route Map

Barnett Knob Lookout

Barnett Knob is a thickly forested, minor peak sitting just off the Blue Ridge Parkway about halfway between Soco Gap and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located within the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the summit is home to a 60’ steel lookout tower built in 1932 by the Forest Service. The tower itself was in service until 2004 though, from the looks of the adjacent watchman’s cabin, it’s been far longer since rangers actually lived at the peak. As with many other lookout towers in the area the summit of Barnett Knob is also capped by a number of modern communication towers, which detracts from the beauty of the site a bit. The lookout tower itself remains in good condition, however. The stairs are open up to the base of the cab but the cab itself is locked, as the tower is still utilized for communication purposes. The view from the cab is no doubt incredible…as it is though, from the top of the stairs, it’s a bit restricted. The forest has grown to obscure much of what you might otherwise see. Even so, portions of the neighboring Smoky Mountain Range is visible…with particularly nice views to the northwest of Mount LeConte and the high ridges surrounding it. The views east of the neighboring Balsam Mountain Ridge are nice as well.

Surprisingly, despite it only being a half-mile walk from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the lookout tower atop Barnett Knob has for the most part escaped the attention of most. Partially this is due to the lack of good views, I’m sure, but additionally there are no signs directing you to it nor is the access road given a name or designation of any kind. It’s because of this fact I recommend bring a map of some sort, just to make sure you’re in the correct spot before heading out. Once you’ve found the access road, park without blocking the gate and simply follow it on its winding journey to the summit. As mentioned earlier the peak is thickly forested so, except for brief moments you pass openings beneath the power lines leading to the summit, there won’t be any view until you climb the tower. The grade is never severe and before long you’ll find yourself at the lookout itself. Simply climb as high as you dare from there!

Overall, this is a suitable hike for just about anyone, though the climb of the tower not so much. Unless you’re comfortable climbing sixty feet in the air on open metal steps with limited railing protection, you’ll probably want to pass. Either way you’ll have successfully reached one of North Carolina’s least visited historic fire towers. Come along with me then, as I make a quick walk to the Barnett Knob Lookout…as always, I hope you ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.525041, -83.229477


Route Type:  Out-and-back         Difficulty:  EASY  (Petzoldt Rating:  2.13 )

Hike Length:  1.4 miles                   Hike Duration:  0:45

Trailhead Temp:  65'F                    Trail Traffic:  NONE!!

Min. Elevation:  4,300'                    Max. Elevation:  4,665'

Total Vertical Gain:  365'               Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  521'  (ascent only)


Trails Used (blaze color):  Barnett Knob Fire Tower Road (unblazed)


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