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Shuckstack Tower via Appalachian Trail is a 6.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Fontana Dam, North Carolina that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until September. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Length 6.6 mi Elevation gain 2,244 ft Route type Out & Back

Backpacking

Camping

Hiking

Horseback riding

Nature trips

Bird watching

Running

Forest

Lake

River

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Snow

Washed out

No dogs

Description
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Contact
Getting There

[Fontana Dam is closed to vehicle traffic. Hikers can park at the Fontana Dam Visitor Center and walk across a marked route to access the park trailheads, including the AT, the Lakeshore Trail and the Benton Mackaye Trail.] Enjoy a side trip to Shuckstack Tower for great views of Fontana Lake The AT enters the GSMNP here if you are headed north. The trail quickly climbs the ridge offering views of Fontana Dam and lake in the fall and winter.You will climb over 2000' in the first 3.5 mi to the side trail to the Shuckstack Tower.The 1/10 mi trail actually goes straight to the tower blazed with a "T". If you choose not to go to the tower or when you return from the tower the AT veers left.3/10 mi you will intersect with Lost Cove/Twentymile Trails, the AT continues straight.1.1mi you will see the sign for Birch Spring Campsite, former location of a AT shelter, so pack a tent for an overnight stay. Some trail guides still have this listed as a shelter. The trail dips down for about a mile before a challenging climb to Doe Knob as you intersect with the Gregory Bald Trail. The Gregory Bald Trail follows a ridge line and the TN/NC border and was the original route of the AT before rerouting due to the construction of Fontana Dam. Return same route.

423-436-1231 Backcountry Office GSMNP

From Fontana Village on NC 28 go E about 1mile. Turn right on Fontana Dam Rd. for 2.3 mi, crossing Fontana Dam. Park at the end of the paved road. Trailhead is at the information board, backcountry permits for campsite is located here is a well.

Weather
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Reviews (93)
Photos (165)
Recordings (62)
Completed (302)
Jeff Weibel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 08 2020
Hiking

Great trail! Very steep on the first 1/3 of the trail and then it finally cuts you some slack. Be prepared to work. They payoff is big when you get to the tower. 360 degree views over the Great Smoky Mountains. We were passed by an AT thru hiker that had been on the trial for 14 days. When he commented about the steepness of the trail, I felt better about feel winded. I loved this hike but might not do it again tomorrow.

View Jeff's Recording
Dan Wells
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Mar 09 2020

Did this hike yesterday with two friends. Steep trail most of the way up to the tower. Had perfect weather all day. 81 steps up the tower . Tower floor is in descent shape. Passed several thru hikers heading to Maine. Good experience.

Ryan Spidey
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Mar 09 2020
Hiking

The road over the dam was in fact open today, making the hike much shorter. Was able to get to the tower in just under two hours but they were a grueling two hours. My original plan was to catch the sunset but an overcast sky set in unexpectedly, making the walk back down much more dark. Overall, phenomenal views from the top, but the hike up is (as it has been described in other reviews) quite uninteresting and every bit of that grade. Entirely worth it though!

Carrie Kirby
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Feb 06 2020
Hiking

Mind blown. There wasn’t much to see walking up except maybe @ little more than halfway through you get a beautiful ridge view, BUT once you get to the fire tower the views are breathtaking. The tower was in great shape and we made it to the top which was the icing on the cake. We finished the hike right at dark and there was a bright full moon shining down on Lake Fontana. We hung there for awhile as the place was so cool we didn’t want to leave. I will definitely be back.

David Miller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarWed Jan 29 2020
HikingBlowdown
View David's Recording
Jill Osborne
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Jan 20 2020
Hiking

Dam was open to traffic on 1.19.20, allowing for parking at the trailhead. Trail was, as expected, mostly uphill enroute to the tower. With the leaf canopy gone, there were good views in multiple directions. Don’t just look up though — there are lots of lichens and mosses to examine right under your feet! Several springs with flowing water allow for filtering & refilling water bottles along the way. We ate lunch by the old chimney stack of the former lookout house beneath the tower, then scaled the 78 steps to the (marginally sketchy) cab. Flooring looks like it’s seen better days, so we took turns entering one at a time. Long range views were astounding... GREAT HIKE

Angie Connatser
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Dec 15 2019
Hiking

This hike was not as hard as I thought it would be based on what I have heard and the reviews I have read. The first 7/10 of a mile was straight up but there are several places that level off throughout the hike. It is is indeed an incline for most of the hike but lots of straight stretches to catch your breath. The trail is well-maintained. Took me 2 1/2 hours going up and just a little over an hour coming down definitely a hike to do! The views are beautiful and the tower is in good shape. Got there at 8 o’clock in the morning and had the entire trail and tower to ourselves! We love this hike! This rating of “hard” is accurate by the way & it was exactly 7 miles RT. People posting it is longer are parking at the visitor center & walking on the road over the dam when the dam road is closed I’m sure.

View Angie's Recording
Blake Bramer
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Oct 28 2019
BackpackingRocky

Hiked the AT from Newfound Gap to Fontana Damn. This was an awesome way to cap the hike!

Candice Sunderhaus
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Oct 21 2019
Hiking

This is a great hike and nowhere near as hard as I thought it was going to be. It's a steady incline to the summit but it's worth the trek. The tower is actually more stable than I imagined. Great views from the top on a clear day! It took us about 5.5 hours total time because we spent at least an hour at the top waiting for the fog to burn off. The hike is actually a little over 8 miles total and the hike out is a breeze! Will be doing this one again very soon!

Carmen Molini
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Oct 18 2019
Hiking

Awesome hike with a great view. Snake on trail and also a bear sighting. Quite the hike!!

Austin Wiley
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Oct 03 2019
Hiking

Easily the hardest but most rewarding hike I’ve ever done. Elevation was over 3000ft. I would do it again but I would get in better shape first. Lol

View Austin 's Recording
Lara F.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Oct 01 2019

This trail was very difficult. It is actually is 4.1 miles one way for a total of 8.2. I’m not sure where the other reviewers say it leveled off, in my opinion it only levels off for a very short time. It just keeps climbing! The trail is very well-maintained and you can drive across the dam to get to the trail head. You are on shade most of the time except near the top. Don’t expect to see a sign that says “Shuck Stack” it’s not mentioned anywhere. The Trail is well marked with a white painted square on the trees. The views from the tower are spectacular. Although we did not go in the room at the top because the floor boards seem fairly rickety. I would strongly recommend this hike you certainly have a sense of accomplishment when you’re done

Stan Rose
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Sep 15 2019
Hiking

I hiked from Clingmans Dome, not in the recording, to Fontana Dam. The trail was in good shape. This was the hardest hike I have done in the Smokies.

View Stan's Recording
David Harper
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Aug 15 2019
Hiking

Great hike. Enjoyed all of it and the views from the tower are incredible.

Reggie Bresette
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Aug 14 2019
Hiking

good views and great workout

Hayley J
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jun 25 2019
Hiking

The dam road was still closed so this added a little over 2 miles RT to walk to the trailhead and back. Total mileage according to my GPS was 9.26 (including the dam road). Although the trail was long and the elevation gain was almost 2500 ft. the terrain was not difficult to navigate. The fire tower was cool. I did not go to the top, just to the second platform and that was high enough to gain beautiful views all around. Great hike, I enjoyed it a lot.

Elizabeth Z.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Mar 23 2019
HikingRocky

This hike was a moderate difficulty. Although I do hike in the mountains frequently. Once you cross over the Fontana Dam take your first right to follow the road to the end. There will be a parking lot and the trailhead is right there. There is alot of inclines but it levels out in a lot of spots and has a few downhill spots. The last half mile or so increases in incline tremendously and definitely gets harder. Once you get to the tower there's only room for about 5 people at the top. The top is enclosed and has windows you can open up. The view is incredible! I highly recommend this trail.

View Elizabeth's Recording
Aaron Kuehn
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Mar 17 2019
Hiking

March 16, 2019. Fontana Dam was open to vehicles and we were able to park right at the trailhead. My recording from here says 6.7 miles and 2228 ft elevation gain, 3:23:53 (paused the recording at the top while we had a snack and climbed the tower). This was a really fun hike. The views at the top are spectacular and it is peaceful and quiet but for the wind. There are good views along the way at this time of year, but probably save your view photos mostly for the top. It takes some work - as everyone has said it’s pretty close to incline the entire 1st half, but there are short intervals of gentler slope or nearly flat where you can catch your breath while continuing to move forward. All of the incline is just hiking, no climbing or hands to the ground (except one instance where a huge tree has fallen and the root base and trunk block the trail, you have to go up and around this which is maybe 5 feet up and back down). Actually near the top you’re going mildly downhill for a good stretch, which is prep for the last half mile which seemed like the steepest part. Significantly colder and windier toward the top, so bring your layers if you go in March.

Vada Cunningham
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarTue Feb 26 2019
Hiking

Steady incline and switchbacks the whole way to the tower basically. Also scared of heights but managed to climb the tower and snap a few photos before having to talk my way down.

View Vada's Recording
Albie Binkley
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Feb 08 2019
Hiking

Incredible views.

Brian Murphy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Nov 24 2018

Love this hike! Fontana Dam was closed to vehicles but you are still able to walk across. Added an easy 2 miles. Very quiet and moderately challenging trip up to the tower which rewards you with breathtaking views! Highly suggest this one!

Anna Pitts
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Nov 06 2018
Hiking

Leave it to Murphy for the bridge to be closed the day we hiked, but all that meant was extra cardio! We had to park at the visitors center and walk over a mile to the trailhead. I wish the trailhead sign said “Shuckstack” but just go left on “Appalachian Trail” (not lakeshore) and follow the white blazes. Thankful for those that make recordings so we can be positive of the direction. It was steady uphill all the way up. So cool climbing up the tower and meeting some nice people along the way. I loved this hike!

Reggie Bresette
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Nov 04 2018

beautiful views

Alivia B.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Sep 09 2018
Hiking

The constant uphill of this trail was definitely a challenge. Bring extra water and snacks and maybe a rainfly just in case you catch an unexpected storm rolling in. It took awhile to get to the top with a couple stops due to the downpours but the fire tower views are absolutely worth it. Coming down only took an hour and a half with a good pace/ downhill jog.

Mont Champion
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue May 01 2018

Pretty tough hike in the pouring rain! We got wet and it was really cold at the tower but we loved every muddy step!!

Tyler Claudio
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Dec 11 2017

Fun hike. did it today with snow on the ground. very challenging on the way to the tower all uphill for the most part. awesome view. the dam was closed so we had to hike from the other side of the dam since the road is currently closed.

Nicole Brazas
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Nov 06 2017
Hiking

Tough but amazing view at the peak of fall made it totally worth it!!!

Lisa Grosskopf
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 22 2017
Hiking

Great workout. Well marked trail. incredible 360 views from the top of the tower.

Lisa Grosskopf
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 22 2017

The view from the top is amazing!

Ray Tant
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Jun 24 2017
Hiking

The road across the dam is closed so add 2 miles round trip to the hike if you plan an out and back. Sections of this hike are relatively flat and offer a chance to recover from the steeper sections of the trail. That said, instead of being a gradual up all the way, you go in and out of steep sections where the elevation gains are made. The payoff is the fire tower at the summit and ruins from the old cabin. I summited as a leading edge of a rain storm hit and decided not to go up into the tower. If you want a casual easy fun hike this is not a good pick. if you want a challenging uphill hike with a stunning view from the top, this is it. There are also occasional view of the lake and dam. I descended as night fell and the view of the illuminated dam was a great touch.

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