This weekend the colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway are finally reaching their peak, and are past peak in the highest elevations. Friday was going to be clear and comfortable for hiking, so we thought it would be the perfect day to see the lookout tower on Fryingpan Mountain. Driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway was a joy, a vacation in an afternoon with the gorgeous colors along the road.
There is a small parking area at the entrance to the trail, maybe a half dozen cars can park there. The entrance is at mile 409.6 if you are in the area and want to see this amazing view.
The trail is actually a gravel road, so much easier to hike than the ones over tree roots. But the challenge is the elevation, it goes fairly steep in some areas. The good news is that the hike is only a mile and a half round trip.
Fryingpan Mountain got its name from nearby Fryingpan Gap. The story goes that the gap was named for a frying pan that was always hanging in a tree. Another story says the nearby stream was shaped like a fryingpan at the entrance to the gap.
Along the way, there are interesting forms in nature with moss covered rocks.
The mountainside still had some pretty color even though a lot of the leaves have been blown away by recent storms and wind.
We kept going up, enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful day.
Artistic forms abound in nature like this fallen tree. The moss growth on it shows it has been here a while.
Clouds were rolling in, with the threat of a shower, as we came over a rise and could see the tower in the distance, with one more hill to climb. The tower was built in 1941 as a lookout tower to watch for forest fires, one of the first ones made of steel. The parkway was under construction and there were a lot of towers built on peaks to monitor the new national forest preserve, but early ones were mostly made of wood and were torn down later. About a third of the towers are still standing and open to the public, but the rest have either been torn down or had their stairs removed.
Arriving at the summit, we are at 5340 feet above sea level. There is a weather station here run by North Carolina State University. They have a website where you can check the weather anytime and it updates every hour. Click HERE to see what the weather is doing now.
The United States Forest Service was formed in the early 1900s to help protect the public lands across the United States. They built towers to scan the horizon for smoke, dispatching crews to anywhere there was smoke. This tower is 70 feet high, but the observation deck at the top is locked. You can climb up to the landings for stunning views.
The colors were more vibrant as the sun broke through the clouds. Rangers staffed the station from the 1940s – 1990s to look for smoke from fires, both with naked eye and binoculars. This had to be monitored constantly. The development of cell phones and satellite surveillance with the ability to detect smoke have made the towers obsolete.
This is the tallest tower in western NC so the views are stunning. It hasn’t been in use since the 1990s, but is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Going up another level, this is Looking Glass Rock in the distance.
I used the zoom lens to get a closer look at Looking Glass.
There was a bit of haze in the distance, but if you look carefully, there are layers upon layers of mountains in the distance past the valley.
As the sun broke though the clouds here and there, the colors started to shine. It is so difficult to show in a picture the glory of what our eyes could see.
Every direction had color, 360-degree views.
That is the Blue Ridge Parkway below, going around Mount Pisgah.
Another view of yet more mountains and color. The high peak in the middle is Cold Mountain just 5 miles away as the hawk flies.
Looking down through the tower, the views continued to be beautiful.
I wasn’t nervous about the height, that usually doesn’t bother me, until I began looking down.
It is gorgeous, but those stairs are a bit unnerving going down. All of a sudden the realization that these steps are steep, narrow, metal and see-though, is a little disconcerting.
Going back to the car was a lot easier, it was downhill the whole way.
Near the end, we heard a small stream and stopped once again to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Moss covered rocks, a small babbling stream, quiet beauty.
Driving back home, one more view from an overlook. The beauty of the parkway was stunning, and I’ll have more on that next week.
Is there autumn color where you are now? or spring flowers for my southern hemisphere readers?
31 thoughts on “Autumn Hike on Fryingpan Mountain”
Thank you for sharing the fall beauty of the mountains. We live in Western Wisconsin along the mighty Mississippi river. It has been a long and beautiful fall here but this week brought signs of approaching winter with rain and snow flurries. Funny how that happens at this time each year!
I love climbing up observation towers if I can – the scenery are always so neat to see far off in the distance. Don’t you love fall – I just posted more scenes today too
Thank you so much for the beautiful tour. So refreshing to go back and enjoy. I’m in central NY and our colors weren’t so bright this year and most leaves have blown off now.
Good morning Carole…..Enjoyed your hike this morning and the pictures are beautiful, as usual. Due to the unusual weather we had the past 3 months in the Midwest, our fall colors seem to be about a month behind time. As I write and look around us, the trees are still laden with the beautiful colors of fall and the carpet of leaves that is usually all picked up by now, are still hanging on the trees. DH says, at this rate, he’ll be out there on New Year’s eve running the lawn tractor. Although he may be stretching the truth a bit, Thanksgiving is a more realistic date. Hopefully we have a few warm days between now and then so he’s able to round up those leaves.
Beautiful photos, thanks for taking us along! Our latest autumn color is white! A dusting twice this weekend, though it melts before the morning is over with temps going into the high 40’s.
Absolutely gorgeous views!
Only a few golden leaves left on the trees here.
Shades of yesteryear! Thank you for the memories, Susan
Oh so pretty. I love the photos you shared, Carole. What a nice adventure. We have had a few very nice fresh air days. Dad and I walk on the W+OD trail an awful lot. I can see the Blue Ridge mountains from my house. We are so lucky to have these glorious views. When I drive to Bristow to see my youngest daughter and her hubbs and new baby, I-66 has some magnificent views I have enjoyed over many seasons.
Thank you for sharing these photos. Climbing those stairs…. oh I would have done it too, but ooh boy, it kind of makes your knees wobbly
How beautiful!! I agree with ya on those slippy stairs down from the tower. Fall is my favorite time of year…just do pretty…as you shared.
Wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing. The haze/fog/mist always add dimension to a scene, making it more mysterious. Any leaves that had fallen here are now under snow, about 10 cm. it is here to stay until Spring!
Colorful trees here and beautiful mountains, but your photos are spectacular and the views breathtaking, can only imagine in real life! Also, your narrations are wonderful, Carole. Thanks for sharing that hike in your beautiful Carolina mountains! Wow, that link to the weather station was fantastic, too. Very interesting. :o)
Seeing those pictures made me very home-sick. We used to go to see Mount Mitchell up the Blue Ridge Parkway every fall and also spent time in Montreat. My daughter’s mountain place is at the base of Cold Mountain. What a beautiful part of our great country. You are very blessed to live in such a gorgeous area and be able to enjoy it’s wonderful seasons. Thanks for sharing with your readers. Have a blessed day!
Enjoyed the pictures and hiking along with you!
We have some pretty red and yellow colors and warm weather we call Indian Summer.
Sweater weather to wear for early morning golf and I have so many sweaters in my collection I have bought in many places through many years.
I just returned home from a week long road trip from the midwest to Savannah Ga and back through Asheville NC. It was without a doubt the most breathtaking views I’ve seen for a fall season. We stuck to the highways as I would have been way to squeamish to get on the roads without guardrails. I would have been on the floor of the car on your drive. LOL I just wish we could have stayed one more day for Biltmore to open with all the Christmas decorations. Perhaps next year! Thanks for sharing all the photos!
The leaves are coming off here, too. Not a spectacular fall for color this year, although the wild hardwood maples in our yard look like they are on fire! Loved the trip up the trail to the fire tower with you. The views are over the top gorgeous! We still have some fire towers here, but they are cordoned off to keep the public from climbing. There was one about four miles from us and we used to climb to visit the ranger and take HER cookies. So sad that era has passed. Our daughters will never know the thrill of seeing our mountains from above the tree tops. We haven’t been in your area for years, so enjoyed the trip!!!!
Good morning Carole,
It’s on the foggy side here this morning so it’s about 67 degrees outside right now. Thanks for the free trip down memory lane to the area you visited. Don’t think I have ever been around the Glass Rock area much, been to a lot of the areas you have featured though. My yard under the trees has a good bit of moss growing so have left it alone, my yard is a bit hilly in places so the soil have eroded in some places
And the moss has kind of taken advantage.
Haven’t done much sewing lately, sorted thru some patterns and ideas this morning and arranged them into folders so I can find things quicker. Have started doing some project Linus to make some blankets and receiving blankets for them, I have a lot of flannel I had bought to things with so will use some of that to help clean out some of my supply of overstock.Have to go to the store for some half and half to make a chicken in white wine sauce for supper so have a great day.
This was very interesting to me because when Bonnie Hunter had her cabin in North Carolina, these are the hills, sights, and pathways she walked and talked about. Where she was living, the neighbors decided to have a homeowners association and started making all kinds of rules, paving pathways, taking away the naturalness of the area. So they found a place in southwest Virginia. She lives in North Carolina and each cabin has been about an hour and a half drive away from her. Now she’s hiking in Virginia these days.I should mention that her cabin, each one of them, has four bedrooms, a full basement, the porch all around, family room, TV room, you get the picture. In their new cabin is on 40 acres.
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The view and the colours. Then the weather station, and their database for so many other areas. What a treat to see this in your autumn season.
Such a beautiful hike, Carole! Thanks for sharing all the views!
Thank you for the wonderful blog…
What wonderful photos. Sure wish I could have
hiked and climbed the tower. I haven’t
climbed one is many years. Have a wonderful Fall.
finishing my table runner and can’t wait to get home to
applique leaves on top.
Loved your photos! Gorgeous!
Thank you for taking me on your hike! Love hiking in the mountains, but living in Minnesota – this seldom happens. We live in the
southwest part of the state – rolling plains of farm country – so forests and mountains are not here. Our fall color is not to be compared to the northern part of the state along the rivers, etc. This year we had a very unpredictable bout of weather – so wet and
cold in late September/early October. The farmers (as we are) were mighty nervous trying to get their crops to mature and then
the harvest to begin. Now everyone is in full force of harvesting the crop and the dust is in the air! I wish I could send you a photo.
The temps are up and down but the winds do not rest. Leaves are done, but the grass is still as green as ever. We feel very fortunate
not to be in the drought and forest fire areas. Temps are at 29 degrees F at this moment. As the gardens and flower beds are being
put to rest, I look forward to the end of corn harvest and Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing!
Speechless after looking at all your wonderful photos. Here, we have had so much rain, that it is hard to see the gorgeous colors.
I do miss the great fall colors in NE and the mid-Atlantic, but not the humid summers and cold and icy winters! Here in the East Bay of CA, the main foliage colors right now are the vivid Chinese Pistacios and sweet gums. The olives are still silver-leaved, just dropping all the fruits on the sidewalks! We also have a few Kousa dogwoods in the neighborhood, with amazingly large fruiting structures and no color change in the leaves just yet. I remember the kousa’s multi-season show in MD, from leaves to flowers to fruits to great fall colors.
Such a beautiful place you live! I’ve been to the Blue Mountains once as a teenager. It was in May and a wonderful respite from the hub-bub of city touring! I live in the Sierra Nevada in California. Our trees are turning colors too, but you have many more deciduous trees that we do.
Beautiful scenery and photos. The Carolinas are so gorgeous. It has been like 30+ years since I have visited, and would love to again soon.
Those steps look STEEP! Beautiful Autumn colours in some of the photos. Some parts of Australia do get those colours, but too hot where we are.
You live in such a beautiful part of the world. What a blessing it must be.
Oh my goodness such a beautiful place that is!! We drove through the area on our way to the NYC airport many many years ago and thought it was a stunning scenery. I should come back and visit the place thoroughly!
You can definitely see a long way from up there! You must be in pretty good shape to hike it.
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