Trail Notes: A short observation tower hike

Trail Team 11

The Place: Blue Ridge Parkway, milepost 350
The Hike: Green Knob Trail to the observation tower

It’s that time of year when everyone heads to the mountains to try to spot some pretty colors on the trees before they drop leaves. Plenty of people will be headed to Roan Mountain, Bays Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway. However, this observation tower hike is worth braving the Parkway traffic.

Mochi and I headed up this trail on a lovely and slightly chilly Sunday afternoon. You start off at the Green Knob Overlook at milepost 350. From the parking lot, you’ll walk along the road north (to the right) until you see the stairs to the trail across from you.

Yes, there is a sign saying the fire tower is closed. This is partially accurate. You can’t access the platform or the room at the top. You can still climb up its stairs for a good view!

From these stairs, Mochi and I encountered my favorite (sarcasm) hiking feature: switchbacks. The areas between the inclines or stairs in the switch are thankfully flat for the most part. Along these sections, there’s plenty of rocks and roots to keep an eye out for underneath the leaf litter. (Fortunately, we didn’t end up falling flat on any roots or rocks; we just stumbled a bit.)

You continue this back-and-forth for roughly half-a-mile before getting to the ridge. At this point, Mochi and I both knew that the fire tower had to be close. I needed a short breather to inflate my formerly-flat-lander lungs properly.

Anyway, it was a good moment to snap a picture because this next part is crucial. When you hit the ridge, you can continue right on the Green Knob Trail or head to the left. Left is to the fire tower.

As I wrote earlier in the post, you can’t get up on the platform for the tower but you can go up the stairs. The view is awesome and I’m sure will only get better as the leaves continue to change color.

You have three options once you’re done at the fire tower. There is a small path that appears to continue up to Green Knob (elevation 5,053 feet). Mochi and I didn’t explore this, so I’m not sure if it’s viable or a bushwhack to the peak. Second option is to head back to the split in the trail and continue exploring the Green Knob Trail. Third is to wrap up your roughly mile-long hike by heading to the car.

Regardless, it’s a fun short trip to a beaut of a view to break up your explorations of the BRP.

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