Explore the most popular forest trails near Fontana Dam with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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.

1 month ago

Great hike for me and my dog. The end is a little more of a climb than the rest but overall a good hike. The trail was overgrown in a few areas and several felled trees across the trail but that didn’t slow us down much. I’d love to do it again, especially if they clean it up.

3 months ago


years ago I did a quarter of this trail. had a ferry drop me at a mid point, as I was a novice backpacker. Had a great time, nice access to the lake for fishing and swimming opportunities.

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

nature trips
5 months ago

Not a bad loop. Good for a warm up quick nature hike

7 months ago

hiked the entirety of this trail, plus some, in three nights and four days (really 3.5 days) in late january. i say ‘plus some’ because the ‘road to nowhere’ park entrance was closed due to snow, so we left our vehicle at the gate and hiked the six miles of road to start our trek. we totaled at about 45 miles after it was all said and done. campsites were great (90 is best IMO), plenty of water at all. used a filter straw and 32 oz. bottle w/ no problem. had feral hogs circle our site one night, one of the middle ones - can’t remember which. maybe 76? that was cool, and heard plenty of coyotes. didn’t see a single person the entire time.

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.

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

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

The view from the top is amazing!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

We spent 8 days on this trail, hiking rather slowly as our youngest is 3 years old. From the Road to Nowhere, we hiked 2.9 miles to campsite #74, then 6.6 miles to campsite #98, then 2.3 miles to campsite #76 then back out the way we came in, staying in a couple of the campsites for 2 days in a row to spend more time swimming and exploring. The trail from 74 to 76 had a fair amount of storm damage and downed trees requiring taking off packs, and climbing over or under, which made for slower progress than we had expected. The campsites are great - all with good water sources and bear cables. You can also reach the lake from all of the sites. Saw salamanders, a peregrine falcon, tons of frogs, and heard a bobcat after a storm one night. Bring bug spray and do not count on anything being able to dry out in this temperate rainforest!

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Beautiful trail! Need better signage.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Beautiful trail! Need better signage.

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.

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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It was a long time ago, but I loved it. Except for the red tape. This is a strenuous hike so do not even think about it if you are not up to it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It has been five years but I remember the beauty and I think my legs still ache. This was one rough trail for the heavy pack I carried back then. The cabin and restaurant at Fontana dam was a joy.

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).

Monday, September 21, 2015

We did an overnight backpacking trip here, starting with a boat ride from Fontana dam($25) to Hazel creek. From Hazel creek we hiked about 6 miles via lakeshore trail to campsite #90(backcountry permit required and can be acquired through GSMNP). The campsite was awesome, a creek on one side and the river on the other! From campsite #90 we hiked to Fontana dam via lakeshore trail which was about 7 miles. Overall a good trip but the trail is hilly so be prepared, especially day #2.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Distance: 4.7, 6.8, 6.2 miles each day
Trails: Lakeshore Trail, Eagle Creek, Lost Cove Trail, Appalachian Trail

Fantastic easy hike with swimming & history & graveyards!

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.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

An awesome trail. We completed this trail unexpectedly when we couldn't get cell service to contact the marina for a ride back from a back country fly-fishing trip. We were actually loaded down with WAY too much gear for a 15 mile trail but managed it. Be ready for serious switch backs at the beginning of the trail. Beautiful scenery, a bit of history and great views of Fontana!

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

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!

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