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.