Pinnacle Mountain Lookout

View from Pinnacle Mountain Lookout in Cherokee National Forest

Located atop Buffalo Mountain at 3,520 feet above sea level, Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower has served as sentinel for forested lands in Unicoi and Washington counties for the past 75 years.

The tower stands sentry over “The Valley Beautiful,” conspicuous along a ten-mile stretch of Interstate 26 between Erwin and Johnson City, and visible from various locations in Johnson City, Limestone Cove, Unicoi and from TN 81 near the Nolichucky River.  The fire tower is one of only four remaining in Cherokee National Forest.


 In 2011Pinnacle Fire Tower was adapted from a wood and metal structure to an all-metal covered viewing platform.  The structure utilized the 40-foot tower structure and replaced the cab with a covered platform the same size, shape and configuration as the old catwalk and cab.

The platform offers views of the region’s highest peaks, including Unaka Mountain, Roan Mountain and Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina, as well as views into the towns of Johnson City, Unicoi and Erwin. 

The 5.9 hike/bike Pinnacle Mountain Trail  serves as a destination trail to the rehabilitated fire tower.  The trailhead, at the foot of Buffalo Mountain and Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower, will provide convenient trail access from Interstate 26, Exit 32 in the town of Unicoi.  From this trailhead vantage point, Pinnacle Mountain Trail will travel .4-miles on town property before entering national forest lands. 

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Open year-round.
Operational Hours: Day use area, sunrise to sunset. 
Closest Towns: Unicoi, TN
Water: None
Restroom: None

General Information


Travel Dry Creek Road to FSR #188.  This is a high-clearance road and is closed mid-January to mid-March.  FSR#188 will dead end at a gate.  From this point it is a .5-mile steep climb to the tower.


Hike or bike, the trailhead is located off Exit 23 off of Interstate 26.  turn west to the trailhead parking area located at the base of the mountain.  

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Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


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