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Pinnacle Mountain Trail

Posted by on February 20, 2011
View from Pinnacle Mtn

View of Unaka Mtn from the Pinnacle Mtn Trail

I thought the best way to start my brand new blog was with a brand new hiking trail… the Pinnacle Mountain Trail, located in Unicoi, Tennessee.

This trail was just completed by the Forest Service about a month ago, and it’s a nicely designed trail with a 4-5 foot width, many switchbacks, and an overall average  grade of less than 7%.  It’s designated for hiking and mountain-biking.  The summit of the trail is the 3540′ Pinnacle Mountain, which has one of the three last remaining look-out towers in the Cherokee National Forest.  This tower is also under reconstruction to allow hikers and bikers access to the wonderful panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains, and it should be completed very soon as well.

My 12-year old son went on the hike with me, and we arrived at the trailhead (after school) at around 3:30 p.m.  We set a turn-around time of 5:15 p.m. , so I didn’t think we’d have a chance of getting near the summit with that late of a start, but we actually made it to within a half mile of the summit.  But even with the look-out tower in sight, we kept to our plan, and turned around at our intended time in order to beat the sunset (and to save time for homework!).

We hustled down the mountain, and made it back to the car around 6:30… completing approximately 8 miles round-trip, while climbing about 1500 feet in elevation.

Taking a Break About Half Way Up
Campbell Checking Our Elevation With the GPS

Pinnacle Mountain is also the highpoint of Washington County, Tennessee at 3540′.  For more information on an alternate access to the summit (via Dry Creek Road), and more photos of the tower prior to reconstruction click here for my archives.

Also check out Mark Peacock’s recent photos of the tower and the new trail at Appalachian Treks.




Great winter hike offering nice vistas through the leafless trees. Average hiking ability required.  May be too strenuous for children to make it all the way too the top.


Historic Look-Out Tower, Tennessee County Highpoint (Washington Co.)

Moderate (would normally classify as difficult due to 1500’ elevation climb, but the grade of the trail is less than 7%).

From I-26, take exit #32. If you are heading east on I-26 (toward Asheville), take a right a the bottom of the exit ramp. If you are heading west on I-26 (toward Johnson City), take a left at the bottom of the ramp. Almost immediately, you will come to a stop sign. Turn right and you will immediately see a sign (future site of the Tanasi Arts and Heritage Center) with a gated entrance into the forest. Park here.

Once parked, walk through the black gate and into the forest via an old road. In only a few hundred feet you’ll see a Cherokee National Forest trailhead sign on your left. At the time of this post, the sign wasn’t marked with a trail number, but you can’t miss it. From there, the trail wasn’t blazed (again at the time of this post), but it is well delineated with no confusing areas. Just follow the wide trail. In approximately 3.5 miles of steady climbing you’ll come to a junction with another forest road. The trail may continue across the road (I’m unsure), but I took a left here and simply followed the road to the firetower. I would think it’s approximately another 1.0 mile to the tower from this junction… making the entire trip about 4.5 miles (9 miles round-trip).

Gear & Tips:

Standard Day-hiking gear. Take extra water… there’s only one small stream near the bottom of the mountain.

Approximately 9 miles round-trip


4-6 hours

Out & Back.  If you wanted, you could make this a traverse of the mountain by ending at Dry Creek Road.  See my link below for access from the other side of the mountain.

Rating (1-5):





only the firetower steps

slippery slopes, steep slopes on trail edge, firetower steps



Information:  Hiking Bill, Appalachian Treks

4 Responses to Pinnacle Mountain Trail

  1. Kelly Stewart

    Bill, just found your post after researching the fire tower on Pinnacle Mountain. I’m definitely going to add this to my wish list. Thanks for the great info!

    • Bill Fuller

      You’re welcome, Kelly. They just opened the renovated fire tower a few weeks ago, so you can walk up to the top now.

  2. sherry

    Interested in walking the Pinnacle Trail in Unicoi, Tn. Want to bring along my two heelers to enjoy the walk with me. Are pets allowed?

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