Panther Top Lookout Tower Nantahala National Forest, NC
miles
LENGTH 2.3 MILES
DIFFICULTY 4 Easy
DURATION 1 hour
ELEVATION GAIN
590
feet
TRAIL TYPE
There And
Back Again
Panther Top Lookout Tower

March 24, 2020 - Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, many parks and hiking trails are closed. It is advised that you do not travel to hike. Many trails have been swarmed with visitors which only helps spread the virus. Stay safe people.

Take a short hike up a forest service road to access 360-degree views from Panther Top Lookout Tower in the Nantahala National Forest near Murphy, North Carolina. While access to the top of the tower is limited to a few days a year for fall leave viewing, you'll still get amazing views of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia mountains.

Don't be alarmed, there is a small shooting range nearby so you'll definitely hear gun fire. The area is also very popular for hunting, so bring your orange hat.

Just after passing the turn off for the shooting range you'll come to the first gate and parking area. In winter this gate will be closed so you'll have no choice but to begin here. A third of a mile up the road you'll come to the second gate that is always closed. There's really no parking here without blocking the gate or the road so I still suggest beginning at the first gate.

Hike up the road, turning at the second gate and following the sign for Panther Top. The entire route to the summit tower is along forest service roads. Wide and flat, this makes for easy hiking. After climbing 600 feet you'll arrive at the maintained grassy bald and lookout tower.

From the ground and even more so up the steps of the tower, you'll get 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges that seem to go on forever in the distance. Looking down from the steps you'll be able to see the giant N26 identifying marker and two parallel lines. These lines are going east to west and the side opposite the N26 is looking north.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Length
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
0.2 mi
16 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
0.5 mi
200 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
0.4 mi
237 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.1 mi
95 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
269 ft
76 ft
For out-and-back hikes, elevation loss is the same as the gain.
Terrain Map Click to control map
Navigation
0.0 mi
0.0 mi - Trailhead at First Gate
0.37 mi
0.37 mi - Turn Left at Second Gate Turn left at the gated road, following the sign for Panther Top Tower.
1.16 mi
1.16 mi - Panther Top Lookout Tower
Details
length2.3 miles
difficulty4 Easy
duration1 hour
trail typeThere And Back Again
blazeNone
elevation gain590 ft.
park/forestNantahala National Forest
ranger districtTusquitee Ranger District
123 Woodland Drive
Murphy, NC 28906
828-837-5152
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.065913, -84.111927 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°3.95, W 84°6.72 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°3'57'', N 35°3'57'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.065913, -84.111927 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°3.95, W 84°6.72 most GPS units use this one
N 35°3'57'', N 35°3'57'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
Just after passing the turn off for the shooting range you'll come to the first gate and parking area. In winter this gate will be closed so you'll have no choice but to begin here. A third of a mile up the road you'll come to the second gate that is always closed. There's really no parking here without blocking the gate or the road so I still suggest beginning at the first gate.
Parking Capacity
6-8 vehicles at first gate. 1-2 at second gate without blocking the gate or road.
Notes
The tower is open to the public on selects days for fall leave viewing. Call the ranger district office for more information.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
5 (1)
hikethesouth-4 months ago
Best Payoff
This is one of the best payoffs for such a short easy hike. It's all forest service road so it's easy to follow and signs point the way. Be aware, there is a shooting range nearby and we heard gunfire almost the entire time. Had the lookout tower all to ourselves. Amazing views. It's not the highest elevation but the summit is cleared out and you can see for miles in the distance in all directions.
Easy | Hiked Fall 2019
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