Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower

Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower, located within the Cherokee National Forest near Unicoi, Tennessee, and perched atop Buffalo Mountain at 3,520 feet, overlooks “The Valley Beautiful.” From its platform, one can see the region’s tallest mountains, including Roan and Unaka mountains, and North Carolina’s Mt. Mitchell.

Constructed in 1931, the tower got its first telephone in 1949. It was closed in 1989.

In 2007, Partners of the Cherokee National Forest, a non-profit championing the forest’s welfare, initiated a fundraising drive. Their goal was to collect part of the $100,000 required to renovate the 40-foot structure, substituting the original 14-foot by 14-foot wooden and metal top with an all-metal viewing platform. This revamped tower was slated to be the focal point of a planned trail system on Buffalo Mountain connecting Erwin and Johnson City.

The transformation of the tower into an observation platform commenced in 2011. That summer, a crane replaced the former cabin with a metallic structure, at a total expense of $146,000. One-fourth of this sum was garnered from individual and business contributions, facilitated by the Partners of the Cherokee National Forest and supported by a grant from the Forest Fire Lookout Association.

The renovated Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower was dedicated to the public in late October 2011.

Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower

Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower


Pinnacle Mountain Trail 25 is a 4.9-mile hike and bike trail from Powder Hollow Road to the Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower atop Buffalo Mountain. The trailhead is located at the junction of TN Route 173 and Powder Hollow Road adjacent to the Interstate 26 interchange in Unicoi.

From Johnson City, follow TN Route 67 west for 1½ miles. Turn left onto Triangle Road and follow south for ½ miles. At the end of the road, turn left onto TN Route 2587 (Dry Creek Road) and continue south and west for 4.7 miles. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 188 and ascend Buffalo Mountain for 4.8 miles. Forest Service Road 188 is a high-clearance road and is closed from mid-January to mid-March. The road ends at a gate; from this point, it is a ½-mile hike on a gravel road to the tower.


Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower Weather

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