Shuckstack Tower via Appalachian Trail is a 7.2 mile lightly 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.

7.2 miles
2,244 feet
Out & Back





horseback riding

nature trips

trail running






wild flowers



washed out

no dogs

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.

7 days ago

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!

9 days ago

beautiful views

2 months ago

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.

6 months ago

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

11 months ago

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.

Monday, November 06, 2017

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The view from the top is amazing!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

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.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Beautiful hike!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hiked this trail on 10/23/16 fabulous day for this hike. Leaves at nearly peak. This is a constant climb but very doable if you are in decent condition. Don't be deceived by the milage estimate, you cannot drive across the dam at this time so from the parking lot it is exactly 10 miles round trip. Not crowded at all, saw very few people on the trail. Highly recommend this trail for a clear day.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Awesome place! Go during fall and bring s backpacking water filter if you want to get some nice stream water for the hike :) best view of all the years I've been going to the Fontana area!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It was the most amazing hike I've ever been on. Don't go during the winter if you don't like to be cold. It was almost 18 degrees when I went. The view is impeccable. Definitely worth the effort. And it's extremely strenuous. Do not wear shoes with little tread. You will slip and slide all over the leaves and it will add more time and difficulty to your hike. Make sure you have proper hiking shoes. Watch for bears because there have been a few deaths. There's a chart at the beginning of the trail that tells you if there is a lot of activity. The most strenuous and difficult trail of the entire Appalachian trail. So this is not for the novice hiker. The tower at the top is sketchy but awesome. My favorite place to hike.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This hike was more challenging than expected. The beginning mile is a harsh hike to the top of the mountain ridge. The remaining hike is along the ridge line. I was told by the Fontana damn museum employee that the shuckstack trail is the longest continuous ascent in the Appalachian trail. There are only a brief sections where the trail levels out. The last mile is also challenging also the steepest. The tower is amazing and was recently serviced when we went. Each tread had been replaced. The view is incomparable as you are at the highest mountain peak within the range, especially if you make it to the top of the tower. Just be careful. Lastly I read a few reviews that said this is a 7.4 mile round trip hike, this is absolutely incorrect, it's at least 10 miles round trip. It took us 3 hours to get to the top and 2 to get down. I highly recommend at least once.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Very hard hike but so very worth it!! The views from the fire tower are excellent, and the hike up is very scenic in the Fall. Be forewarned of two things: the trail is not well marked, and as of this review you can't cross Fontana Dam by car to get to the trailhead. You have to park at the dam visitor center and walk almost a mile to the Appalachian Trail (which serves as the trailhead).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Very steep the first few miles and not a good way to start hiking the AT trail for the beginner! Once over the steepest it is pretty and nice to Doe Knob. Hope to complete AT in Smokies soon. Work and snow prevented me from finishing last fall.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A must see! Nice views. Tough hike up but a cherry on top!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Although this can be a hard hike the views from the tower are well worth the effort. The trail starts to climb from the very start and is said to gain 2100 feet over 3.5 miles. As with any tough climb take plenty of water, proper gear and snacks. You will not want to take this hike without a camera also. There is maybe one great view on the way at what appears to be an old rock slide area but the high point of the trip is the views from the tower. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This is not a hike for the faint of heart especially in the winter. I have never been that cold in my life and the better part of the hike is along a ridgeline so the wind is relentless. All that said I am glad I went. I love the old firetowers, and there arent that many left. When we made it to the bottom and started acros the dam a medium sized bear popped out beside the road. It sat and looked at us a minute then ambled off into the woods. I would love to end every hike with a sight like that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I don't recall a loop, so I probably didn't do 12 miles. I started at Fontana Dam and took the AT up and back. Great hike, did it in Winter and had to shed the coat several times.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We went the Gregory Bald first and took a route that would pass Shuckstack on our way out.. and it was more than worth the extra few miles we added to out hike! It was terrifying and exhilirating to climb to the top of that old tower, and only a little less terrifying inside, but Shuckstack holds the most beautiful veiws of the Smokey Mountains I've ever seen! A full 360 degrees of nothing but mountains, beauty, and solitude.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

OK, this is a Navy Seal in training hike. The first 4 miles are quite steep getting up to the Shuckstack tower. Then when you come down to make the loop the next mile or more is so steep downhill on the loop that you will beat your toes to death in your hiking boots. Once you get past all that pain then it is just a death march along the lakeside trail to get back to the parking area. There are a few creek crossings none dramatic when we were there in July and remnants of old cars and buildings on the lakeside trail, also some bear cages the park had out to catch naughty bears I guess. It is a great hike up to Shuckstack tower, with spectacular views but if I do it again I will hike out the way I came in and skip the lakeside trail.

3 months ago

9 months ago

11 months ago

Monday, November 06, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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