Trail: Shuckstack Tower Trail
Type: Out & Back
Surface: Forest Trails & Old Roads
Distance: 7 miles (RT)
Time: 5-7 hours
Foot Traffic: Not Crowded
Restrooms: Fontana Dam Visitor Center
Highlights: Scenic 360° Views, Wildflowers, Historical
Shuckstack Tower Trailhead
The trail to Shuckstack Tower begins 0.6 miles after the Fontana Dam. Cross over the dam and after a short drive the parking area for the trailhead is visible.
Shuckstack Tower Trail Background
In 1934, the Public Works Administration built the Shuckstack Fire Tower, located on what is now the Shuckstack Tower Trail. That same year, the US Congress chartered Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Fighting forest fires in the 1930’s was not as advanced as it is today, and having a bird’s eye view required putting a man above the trees. Park Rangers used these fire towers throughout the park to monitor the forest and report any fires.
As technology advanced, the towers became obsolete and they abandoned them. Many of the old fire towers disappeared over time.
The Shuckstack Fire Tower is a small wood and steel building reached by climbing the somewhat precarious stairway. The National Park Service does not maintain this structure anymore and it is deteriorating.
Take care when climbing to the top of Shuckstack Fire Tower, since the structure is in need of repairs.
Shuckstack Tower Trail Description
Shuckstack Tower Trail is popular because of the amazing 360° panoramic views at the summit. Coupled with the beautiful wildflowers peppering the way, this arduous hike is worth the trouble for fit hikers.
Shuckstack Tower Trail is not a highly used trail, but you will see other hikers on the trail. At only 3.5 miles from trailhead to summit, it is not a far distance, but it is steep. Much like the Gregory Ridge Trail, this trail has a demanding ascent, rising more than 2,100 feet in about 2.5 miles.
Once you arrive at the summit, you still have about 80 steps to climb up the tower. That’s nothing compared to the journey you just took to get there. Again, be careful climbing the tower as it is not in the best shape.
You may continue to take the trail for an additional 8.4 miles and complete a loop. We are not describing the loop here, only the out and back portion of the trail to the tower.
Nearby Points of Interest
Fontana Dam is a popular destination with a great view. You will drive or walk over it to get to the trailhead. The overlook and picnic area is nearby. The Dragon, a popular ride with motorcycle enthusiasts and sport car owners, is just west of Fontana Dam on US 129.