Hike to Mt. Sterling's Fire Tower

12 miles 4200 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Brendon Pierson

Mt. Sterling's Fire Tower is a 12 mile up and back day trip OR make it a 17 mile loop and camp at the summit. Enjoy stunning view from 60ft fire tower atop the 5842ft Mt. Sterling -- arguably the best panoramic view of the Smokies. The best part? The trail head is just a 10 minute drive from I-40.

On your way in, stop at the ranger station parking lot to use the outhouses and grab a map for $1. Once at the Baxter Creek trailhead you have two options: 1. The Out and Back (12.2 miles) 2. The Loop (17 miles)

  1. Out and Back: Start on the Baxter Creek Trail and continue up for 6.1 miles until you reach the fire tower. The trail is very well maintained and you could definitely run on it if you were so inclined, but keep in mind it does rise 4200ft over 6miles. You don't get quite as of good scenery as the loop, but you still see wildlife including plenty of deer and maybe even black bears.

  2. The Loop: Start on the Big Creek Trail and follow it for 5 miles along the creek until you will come to an intersection with the Swallow Fork Trail. Follow the Swallow Fork Trail for 4 miles until it forks left. Take this left fork for 1.4 miles, at which point you will reach the summit and fire tower. There is a campsite at the top, and water 1/4 mile past the summit (well marked with signage).
    To descend continue past the summit and down the Baxter Creek Trail for 6.1 miles. If you have the time I would highly recommend the loop as you pass numerous waterfalls, streams, and scenery. It can also be done in a day if you are mindful of your pace.

Note: Google Maps labels Baxter Creek Trail as "Benton Mackaye Trail." Look for signs for Baxter Creek Trail once you arrive at the parking lot - it is well maintained and clearly marked.

For information on the colorful history of Mt. Sterling check out http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/sterling_baxter_creek.htm

Read More

Tags

Camping
Backpacking
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Picnic Area
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

3rd option

Great hike. Just finished this one this weekend! However you also have a 3rd option should you be interested (which we did). You can pass the Swallow Fork Trail, continue your hike to Gunter Fork Trail (4.1 miles), then jump on the Balsam Trail (0.9 miles), and then onto the Mount Sterling Ridgeway (5.3 miles) before you summit. Adds a lot to your hike and can be a bit of a challenge. The view at the summit in the tower is stunning.

Stay Nearby

Newport, North Carolina

Big Creek Group Camp

Overview Big Creek Group Camp is located in the far northeastern corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. With the gentle waters of Big Creek run...

Newport, North Carolina

Big Creek Horse Camp

Overview Pack up your horses for a getaway at Big Creek Horse Camp, located on far northeastern side of Smoky Mountains National Park, approximately 16 miles from Newport, Tennessee. This campsite ...

Newport, North Carolina

Big Creek Campground (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Overview Big Creek Campground is located in a remote portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The beautiful flowing waters of Big Creek parallel the campground offering the visitor a pleasa...

Cocke County, Tennessee

Cosby Group Camp

Overview Tucked in the mountains under a canopy of cool shade, this group campground creates a peaceful and secluded environment for visitors, offering the best that the Great Smoky Mountains Natio...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Mouse Creek Falls

    Follow Big Creek Trail on a moderate climb to this 45-foot waterfall. Around 1.3 miles in, you will begin to hike alongside Big Creek, and shortly afterwards you will pass Midnight Hole, a particularly deep pool. There are a number of other small ...

    4.2 miles 605 ft gain

  • Photograph the Smokies from Buzzards Roost

    This is an awesome place to check out if you are driving Interstate 40 or if you are visiting the area for awhile. The access point for Buzzards Roost is located on the same exit as the well known Max Patch Mountain, just in the other direction. O...

  • Whitewater Rafting the Pigeon River

    The Pigeon River is a dam controlled river that winds its way through North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The river provides beautiful views as one paddles along via raft or kayak.  Cutting throug...

  • Hike to the Mount Cammerer Lookout Tower

    Most visitors have a vision of how they'd like to see Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it typically involves climbing to the top of a mountain like 4,928-foot Mount Cammerer. This is a very strenuous hike involving a breathtaking amount of...

    11 miles 3040 ft gain