Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

While Fryingpan Mountain is NOT protected by Conserving Carolina, it offers one of the most expansive and scenic vistas to view many of our conserved lands across Henderson, Transylvania, and Rutherford counties. Crowned by a historic fire lookout, this tower’s elevated perch atop a 5,340-foot peak offers views extending beyond 60 miles on a clear day. Fryingpan Mountain is in the Pisgah National Forest (Pisgah Ranger District) and accessed by a gravel road/trail off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Fire lookout towers, like the one atop Fryingpan Mountain, were used for well over a half-century to provide rapid-fire detection for land managing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service. With the aid of a distant view from above, “fire watchers” were able to quickly detect smoke on surrounding slopes and in the valleys below and identify its general location. Alerting smokechasers and firefighters nearby allowed for the fire to be contained, managed and extinguished while still small in size. This prevented it from becoming a ravaging forest fire that threatened natural resources, private property and human lives. A shorter historic fire lookout tower also stands atop Conserving Carolina-protected Bearwallow Mountain.

The Fryingpan Mountain lookout tower is one of the tallest in western North Carolina, standing 70 feet above the summit. It was constructed in 1941 by the U.S. Forest Service. A 12’x12’ “live-in” cab surrounded by a catwalk crowns the structure. Due to the tower’s remote and rugged location that made access difficult, firewatchers made their home in the cab for several days, even weeks at a time, while serving fire detection duties. The cab was equipped with basic necessities, including a bed, cook stove for preparing meals, and a radio and/or telephone to communicate with the Forest Service or other nearby lookout towers.

This lookout tower was actively staffed for fire detection until the early 1990s when its use was decommissioned by the U.S. Forest Service. Modern fire potting is achieved more quickly and at less expense utilizing aerial surveillance by airplane or by reports received from the public via cell phone. While no longer used for its original purpose, the tower is a historic structure and enables a scenic view for hikers and tourists enjoying a hike in Pisgah National Forest or drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Using federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, the Fryingpan Mountain lookout tower was restored in 2010 by the U.S. Forest Service.

From the top of the lookout tower, view expanses of beautiful, undeveloped natural landscape. To view lands that Conserving Carolina has protected, look east and southeast. On the horizons and successive ridges below, many Conserving Carolina conservation projects are visible on a clear day including (from left to right) Little Pisgah Mountain (Florence Nature Preserve), Bearwallow Mountain, Shumont Mountain (Weed Patch Mountain and Chimney Rock State Park), Sugarloaf Mountain (Chimney Rock State Park), Queen Creek Mountain (Deerfields), Sharpy Mountain (Mountain Meadows at Turkeypen), and Rich Mountain (Camp High Rocks). More Conserving Carolina conserved land is visible farther below in the French Broad River Valley as well as DuPont State Recreational Forest. Try the Peakfinder app on iOS or Android to identify peaks and our conserved lands.

Enjoy the view—and thanks for your support of Conserving Carolina in protecting it!