Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower
Great 360 degree view of the mountain ranges from observation platform. Officially USFS Trail #25 "Pinnacle Mountain Tower Trail".
How to get there
From Kingsport or Johnson City:
- Head south on I-26
- Take Exit 32.
- At bottom of ramp, take a right.
- At the roadway tee, there is a new gravel parking lot for 3-4 vehicles with a nearby sign announcing future location for the arts center. There is parking on the road next to the designated lot as well.
- Hike through gate along new gravel road into the picnic area.
- Trailhead is at the back - look for brown FS marker. Does not have the trail name on it. Parking here for only 1-2 vehicles.
The trailhead is located at the future site of the Tanasi Arts & Heritage Center next to Interstate 26 at Exit 32. The lime green-blazed trail winds up to the top with a steady 6% slope using many switchbacks. The trail crosses a gravel road and ATV trail near the top which both also lead to the tower, but are steeper than the trail.
Takes 2-2.5 hours to hike up to the tower, and then 1.75 hours back down. Cut half hour off descent by coming down gravel road way to trail intersection.
|Miles||Elevation||Pinnacle Mountain Tower Trail||Miles|
|0.0||2120||Trailhead at picnic parking lot||4.7|
|2.1||2910||First distant view to the east||2.6|
|3.2||3080||Cross gravel road/ATV trail
Trail follows old logging road
|3.7||3140||Leave logging road for new trail||1.0|
|4.4||3400||Burned out area around trail||0.3|
|4.7||3500||Trailhead at tower||0.0|
The new trail, mostly constructed by a Bobcat backhoe by a contractor, is 4 ft wide and well graded (6%). It does have a slight side-to-side slope, which is great to keep the water off the path, but did wear out my ankles from the constant twist. The trail needs this fall's leaf litter to start protecting the tread, which could be somewhat slick after rain due to being so new.
Fees, Permits, etc.
No fees or permits. Horse or motor bike riding not allowed per forest service sign. Uncertain if and when the gate at the picnic area is locked.
The trail is located in the Watauga Ranger District of the Cherokee National Forest. Telephone: (423) 735-1500
The summit is the highpoint of... Washington County (not Unicoi), Tennessee as it is just inside the county line. Pinnacle Mountain Tower was built by the Civil Conservation Corps and was in service until 1989. The trail was created and the 40 ft observation platform restored for $100,000 as a joint partnership. See [news article] and [FS press release].
The fire tower can also be accessed via a forest service road or the ATV trail (FTR #29) off of Dry Creek Road.
Temporary bathrooms are located at the parking area.