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On the Road with Riley - Panther Top Tower Trail

Are you interested in a relatively easy hike with a phenomenal view? Do you enjoy exploring old logging roads that snake through the Appalachian wilderness? Are you preferential to trails that are open to both dogs and horses, as well as foot and bike traffic? If you answered yes to any of these, the Panther Top Tower trail is the destination for you. Located about 20 minutes from historic downtown Murphy, Panther Top is the perfect trail for hiking, horseback riding, and biking in Cherokee County, NC.

Moderate Hike, Stunning Views

Panther Top is a moderate 2.3-mile round-trip trail in Western North Carolina. The trailhead is located at the base of the mountain, and though there is no designated parking area, hikers are advised to park by the entrance gate on the side of the gravel road. The trail is an ‘out and back’ and follows a forestry road (closed to automobile traffic) to the mountain’s summit, Panther Knob. At the top, hikers will find the historic Panther Top Lookout Tower, which was built in 1940 and is still in use today. Although access to the top of the fire tower is restricted, guests can climb the stairs for an impressive 360-degree view of the landscape. On clear days, onlookers can catch a glimpse of Lake Hiawassee and the Hiawassee River in the valley below.

Horse and Dog Friendly Trails

Panther Top is located on National Forest Land, about 20 minutes from downtown Murphy, NC. In addition to hiking and biking, Panther Top is open to both dogs and horses. During previous years, the trail has been opened up to automobile traffic during two weekends in late-October; the North Carolina Forest Service should announce these dates in the future. The site is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register and is “maintained in cooperation with federal, state, and private forestry agencies and landowners throughout the United States.”


- Written by Riley Lachance

Panther Top Tower Trail

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