Wayah Bald Lookout Tower is located in the Nantahala National Forest just outside of Franklin, NC. and offers amazing views from an elevation of 5,342 feet. On a clear day, like shown in the pictures, you can see to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and even into Georgia.
On the drive up to Wayah Bald, you pass Wilson Lick Ranger Station. Originally built in 1916, Wilson Lick Station was used by the watchmen that were commissioned to keep watch over the forest below for fires. Not only were the rangers in charge of keeping watch over the forest for fires, but their days were often spent brushing rights-of-ways and repairing telephone lines in the 1930s, as well as issuing grazing permits for the stock that freely roamed the mountains at that time.
More on Wayah Lookout Tower
In 1935, the Civillian Conservation Corps began the building of a new and elaborate lookout tower on Wayah Bald. This tower stood over 53 feet tall and consisted of quarry stone and a wooden roof made of oak shakes.
Then on September 6, 1937, thhe new lookout opened to the public. At this time, the tower was dedicated to the memory of Mr. John B. Byrne, a former Forest Supervisor of the Nantahala National Forest. Visitors at that time, climbed an oak staircase to the second floor. From this point, they could look out any one of the twelve windows. I think it’s pretty amazing that more than 9,000 people signed the guest registration book in 1937. Sadly the use of this tower had to be discontinued in 1945 due to hairline cracks that were developing. For safety purposes, the Forest Service decided to remove the towers upper level in 1947.
In 1983, the Forest Service reconstructed the upper portion of this popular landmark to what you see today. The goal was to replicate the original design and to preserve the historical integrity of the tower.
Bartram Trail (Yellow Blaze) passes through the tower area
Appalachian Trail (White Blaze)
Additional sites in this area:
Wilson Lick Ranger Station
Picnic Tables: Yes (located at the Grassy “Bald” Area.
Restrooms: Yes (Pit Bathrooms)
Hike to Tower: Suitable for all ages and senior friendly. The path is paved.
Parking fees: No
Entrance fees: No
Directions from Hayesville, NC to Wayah Bald:
From Franklin, take Hwy-64 W towards Hayesville, NC for 3.8 miles to Old Murphy Rd. (SR 1448) on your right (you’ll see a Wayah Bald sign as well). Continue on this road for .2 miles to Wayah Road (SR 1310) on your left. Continue on Wayah Rd. for 9 miles, then you’ll turn right on FR #69 (Wayah Gap). Take this gravel road approx. 4 miles to the Wayah Bald Lookout Tower