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Shuckstack Tower via Appalachian Trail

HARD 70 reviews

Shuckstack Tower via Appalachian Trail is a 6.6 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.

Distance: 6.6 miles Elevation Gain: 2,244 feet 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

[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.

backpacking
rocky
1 month ago

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

hiking
1 month ago

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!

hiking
1 month ago

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

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

2 months ago

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

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.

hiking
3 months ago

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

hiking
3 months ago

good views and great workout

hiking
5 months ago

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.

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

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.

hiking
8 months ago

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.

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.

hiking
9 months ago

Incredible views.

Sat 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!

hiking
Tue Nov 06 2018

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!

Sun Nov 04 2018

beautiful views

hiking
Sun Sep 09 2018

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.

Tue 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!!

Mon 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.

hiking
Mon Nov 06 2017

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

hiking
Sun Oct 22 2017

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

Sun Oct 22 2017

The view from the top is amazing!

hiking
Sat Jun 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.

Sat May 06 2017

Beautiful hike!

hiking
Wed Oct 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.

Thu Sep 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!

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.

hiking
Tue Apr 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.

hiking
Fri Oct 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).

Tue Apr 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.

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