I’d like to dedicate this post to my brother Shawn. I gave him a call on my drive to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower hike, and when I told him I was going hiking, his response was, “so you can blog about it?” Yes, Shawn! Content doesn’t create itself. YOU HAVE TO PUT IN THE WORK.
I’d somehow been unfamiliar with the Rich Mountain Fire Tower until a former coworker recently posted an Instagram from there and tagged the location. It’s only a 48-minute ride from Asheville and is easy access when you consider the drive involves no dirt roads or rides on the parkway. The hike is near Hot Springs, which I’ve still never been to, but also just a fifteen minutes ride past Marshall, which isn’t a bad little town to check out. Either way, there are great post-hike options for Rich Mountain. A road goes up to the fire tower, which your GPS will probably take you on, but if you’re coming from Asheville, you’ll come to an intersection for NC 208 and take a right to stay on US 25/70. You’re on that for about two miles when you turn off the main road. This is where you park. Don’t keep going (unless, obviously, you want to drive up). A bridge crosses back over 25/70, and the small parking area is just before that.
The hike follows a portion of the Appalachian Trail the majority of the way (follow the white blazes) and is a bit of a leg burner…the hike clocks in at 5 miles, but I felt like I’d done much more than that once I returned to my apartment later that afternoon. When it feels like you’re about to reach the mountain’s peak, there’s a trail to your right, with a sign letting you know it goes to the Fire Tower. I had no problem finding it, but I could see it being easy to pass, SO BE VIGILANT.
I’m historically terrified of fire towers. Other than the fire tower on Mt. Cammerer, which requires walking up three stone stairs, I’ve never made it to the top—I just don’t trust structures that sway in the breeze. However, the Rich Mountain Fire Tower is pretty sturdy and only requires two flights of stairs. Was I terrified the entire time I was up there taking selfies to send to my aforementioned brother to prove to him I did it since unfortunately, he’s had to deal with me coming apart in high places before (last fall in Yosemite, I had to relinquish control of the car from him and lay down in the backseat during one particularly perilous drive to prevent myself from having a panic attack)? Yes. Did I slide back down the staircase on my ass? Also, yes, but if you’re also heights-adverse, the Rich Mountain Fire Tower is a great, doable fire-tower hike to tackle.