Looking for a short, relatively easy hike with a unique experience? Look no further than Fryingpan Mountain! Located at Mile Post 409.6 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and just a stone’s throw from Mt. Pisgah, Fryingpan Mountain offers panoramic views from atop a 70-foot tall lookout tower. Let’s climb on up and see exactly what it has to offer!
Fryingpan Mountain is probably one of the most overlooked attractions the Blue Ridge Parkway has to offer…especially for the great payoff the short hike rewards you with. The 1.5 mile out and back trail is easy to moderate in difficulty, and follows an old service road (FS450) the entire way, so it’s easy to spot and follow. Parking is directly beside the road on the dirt or grass…just be sure to not block the gate.
Once across the gate, the path will turn left and begin to ascend to the summit. There’s a small trail that bears right, and that goes to the Mt. Pisgah Campground…so stay left. The trail itself isn’t anything to write home about, and unless you go during spring or summer, it’ll look pretty bland. If you time your visit right, though, you’ll pass through swaths of wildflowers, as well as some blooming rhododendrons and wild blueberries. You will get a few glimpses of Mt. Pisgah and some of the surrounding mountains on the way up if you visit during the winter and early spring, but the real views come once at the top.
Once you’ve almost reached the top, you’ll see the steel tower rising up in the distance. From here, it levels off before making a final, short climb to the summit.
Before heading to the tower, check out the view of Mt. Pisgah, as most of the view of Pisgah will be obstructed when on the tower. Also check out the cool weather sensor to the left, and the view looking directly behind it to the east. Also, be sure to follow all warning signs and to stay away from all restricted areas.
The views from the base are nice, but are nothing compared to the ones you’ll be presented with when climbing the tower. Built in 1941, the lookout tower was used to locate fires across the region. It’s the only remaining fire tower left in the Pisgah Ranger District, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the very top is blocked off from access, but everything just below is open to exploration. Those brave enough to climb the stairs will be greeted with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains…including Mt. Pisgah, Looking Glass Rock, and Cold Mountain, along with many others. Sunsets and sunrises are especially beautiful from up here. Some people claim the views are nicer from the tower than they are from the top of Mt. Pisgah. With way less crowds and a much shorter, less rigorous hike, I’m inclined to agree with them. Completely exposed, winds do get pretty strong near the top, so be cautious when climbing, and be sure to use the handrails.
Fryingpan Mountain is truly a unique experience. It certainly doesn’t get enough credit for everything it offers…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Crowds are most likely going to be generally low, so you won’t be fighting for spots to view the gorgeous mountains and cool lookout tower. (Plus, I’m not sure you want a whole lot of people on the tower at the same time anyway….)
Once over the vertigo-inducing climb, the payoff is easily one of the best in the Southern Appalachians. And it’s definitely worth a visit for those traveling along the Mt. Pisgah and Graveyard Fields sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Comment below about some of your favorite, not as well known hikes and attractions!