Trail: Look Rock Tower
Type: Out & Back
Surface: Hard (Paved)
Distance: 1 mile (RT)
Foot Traffic: Not Crowded
Restrooms: Look Rock Campground on Loop Road (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Scenic 360° Views
Begin your adventure at the entrance to Foothills Parkway, located in Walland, Tennessee on US 321. If you start in Townsend, drive toward Walland on US 321 and the entrance will be on your left.
Foothills Parkway Entrance | Photo: Marc Bowman
Look Rock Tower Trailhead
As you approach Look Rock Tower Trail on Foothills Parkway, signs mark the parking area on the left where you begin your hike. Parking for several dozen cars is sufficient for most days.
Approaching Look Rock Tower Parking Area | Photo: Marc Bowman
At one end of the parking area a scenic overlook provides a fantastic view of the Smokies. Ann took this picture in May of 2015. The blue hue is amazing.
Look Rock Tower Parking Overlook | Photo: Ann Bowman
A short sidewalk at the opposite end of the parking area leads to a crosswalk where hikers cross Foothills Parkway and enter the trailhead.
Look Rock Tower Signage at the Parking Area | Photo: Marc Bowman
Crosswalk to Look Rock Tower Trailhead | Photo: Marc Bowman
Look Rock Tower Trail Trailhead | Photo: Marc Bowman
Look Rock Tower Trail Description
Look Rock Tower Trail is located on the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Chilhowee, TN. This short, half mile (1 mile round trip), out and back trail, is popular because of the 360° views it provides of the Smoky Mountains from the observation tower.
Some of the trail guides rate this trail “Easy,” but others give it a “Moderate” rating. We are cautiously tagging it a moderate hike due to the 170’ rise in elevation over the short distance. The surface is paved, flat, and easy to walk on.
Paved Surface of Look Rock Tower Trail | Photo: Marc Bowman
Foot traffic along the trail is light, except during the high season, when it is trafficked more heavily. We rate this trail “not crowded” for average foot traffic.
This is a family-friendly trail. Parents should not have any trouble pushing a stroller to the observation tower on the hard flat surface. In fact, we saw a young couple pushing a stroller to the top on our recent visit. The distance is only a half mile, so younger children can walk to the top without too much difficulty.
Several side trails are along the way. These trails are not paved and the National Park Service recommends sticking to the developed trail. We ignored this advice and had to backtrack. It didn’t go where we thought.
IMPORTANT: Only two trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park allow pets. This is not one of them. Please do not bring your dog on the Look Rock Tower Trail. Fines are high, as much as $5,000. On our most recent hike, we saw a couple at the tower with their family dog. We also spotted a Park Ranger in the parking area when we arrived back at our car. If the ranger saw the dog when the couple came down the trail, they were busted. Please leave your pets at home.
RELATED: Park Pet Policy
Look Rock Observation Tower
The observation tower is a concrete structure allowing visitors to see as far as 40 miles on a clear day. Some of the points of interest are Clingman’s Dome, Mt. LeConte, Rich Mountain, Thunderhead Mountain, and Cades Cove.
Visitors may walk only to the viewing platform of the tower. Park officials blocked off the spiral stairway leading to the enclosed glass observation room.
The tower is now used as a weather station, so the observation room is full of weather equipment.
The winds are often quite strong at the observation tower. Sometimes you may feel like you need to hang on to something. The views are amazing from the tower.
If you happen to be here in the autumn, the fall colors will blow you away. Take a selfie, look around, kiss your wife or husband, take it in, and make a memory.
WARNING: The railing at the tower is low, about three feet, so if you have small children, be particularly careful around the railing. Adults need to be careful as well, especially on windy days.
Nearby Points of Interest
The Look Rock Ranger Station is across the Parkway on Look Rock Picnic Area Road. However, Look Rock Campground and Look Rock Picnic Area are both closed until further notice. Townsend is a quiet town worth visiting. In addition, The Dragon motorcycle route is just minutes away.