Wayah Bald Lookout Tower

Categories: Play, Hiking & Backpacking, Kid-Friendly, Picnic Areas, Museums & Historic Sites, Appalachian Trail, Outdoor Fun, Our Favorites


  • Wayah Bald just outside of Franklin NC has excellent views from an elevation of 5,342 feet
  •  Appalachian Trail runs along FR #69 and continues up and over Wayah Bald crossing right by the lookout tower (White Blazed) 
  •  Bartram Trail (Yellow Blaze) passes through the tower area and shares the path with the A.T. 
  •  "Wilson Lick Ranger Station" original structure still standing (History Info Kiosk) 
  •  Grassy "Bald" with Picnic Tables (6) in woods 
  •  Pit Bathrooms (No Running Water) 
  •  Short paved path to tower (About 5 Min. Walk) 
  •  Mounted illustrations of the nearby mountain ranges & well-known peaks from observation deck in the tower 
  •  Info kiosk with tower history, Bartram Trail & AT info 
  •  No fees for parking
  •  Suitable for all ages, especially senior friendly

The Local Scoop

"Wayah" is a Cherokee word for "wolf" and this area had quite a large population of Red Wolves up until the mid 19th century when a bounty lead to their eradication. Built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the tower was originally used for fire detection and rose 60 feet above the summit. Over the years, water damaged the structure, and in 1947 the top two floors were removed; in 1983, a hemlock-beam and cedar-shake roof was added, and is still in this form today. Wayah Bald Lookout Tower is one of the best places for views in the Franklin NC area and I have been enjoying it for years now.
Wayah Bald is also a great place to go watch the snow fall... but you'll probably need four-wheel drive or All-wheel drive at the top. You will usually "drive out" of the snow-line when you drop in elevation.
We recommend this area because you can bring the entire family for easy access to the lookout tower, picnic area and fantastic views of the valley below. This area is also senior citizen-friendly with any easy paved path to the tower from parking. Bring you camera and binoculars for one of Macon County's most popular look-outs.  
**New construction 2010 offering new pit toilets located just past the paved trail on your right**

The Local Directions

From Franklin NC
From intersection of U.S. Hwy-64 W and U.S. Hwy-23/441 North in Franklin take Hwy-64 W towards Murphy, NC for 3.8 miles to "Old Murphy Rd.(SR 1448) on your right (see Wayah Bald Sign).
After you take the exit, continue down the hill for just under 0.2 miles to Wayah Road (SR 1310) on your left ("Loafers Glory" gas station will be at the intersection of Old Murphy Rd. and Wayah Rd, so you'll know where to turn).
Continue on Wayah Rd. for 9.1 miles where you'll find yourself at FR (Forest Road) #69 on the right, at Wayah Gap. Take this gravel road for another 4.4 miles to the Wayah Bald Area and Lookout Tower... (NOTE: Avoid the sign for "Winespring Bald" to the Left, 3.5 miles from the start of FR #69. This area, with no views, is a Government Radio & TV tower area where motor vehicles are prohibited).

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Difficulty Levels

  • Hike1What's this?
35.180321, -83.560654
Hike Distance
0.15 miles 
Moderate via Wayah Road & Forest Road #69 (gravel)
Nearest City
Macon County
Distance From
Franklin 17.7 miles