Looking for a quick hike for the family with beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains? Look Rock Tower is a perfect family-friendly hike!
Family Adventure to Look Rock
This past year on New Years Day, we wanted to spend part of the day doing something we felt like our year would represent. While we sure do love to stay home and spend simple time together, we also really love getting out and having some adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains!
One of our favorite quick and easy hikes is to Look Rock Tower. It provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas. There are only a few opportunities throughout the park to have this kind of view of the Smokies without having to trek very far!
Since we live so close to the mountains (and it’s free!), we decided to throw some snacks in a bag, grab some water bottles and head for a little hiking adventure to Look Rock Tower!
A History with Look Rock
The Look Rock Tower Trail is by far the closest (and shortest) hiking trail to us in the Great Smoky Mountains. I have been hiking this trail with my family since I was a kid.
Not only did I hike this trail often as a kid, but Matt and I have been taking our kids on this trail since they were itty bitty.
Maggie’s very first trek on this trail was at 4 months old. She remembers it fondly.
The boys have always loved this hike as well since they were little.
One of our family’s favorite things to do when I was growing up was to go to the Look Rock Picnic area.
Our family has had MANY picnics in the Look Rock Picnic Area over the years.
Although the picnic area is no longer open to the public, we have very fond memories of the Look Rock area. We love to spend time there when we can and take advantage of the short hike with beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains!
How to Get to Look Rock
There are a couple of different ways to get there. Probably the easiest way for most visitors would be to take Hwy 321 and turn onto the Foothills Parkway. It is approximately 10 miles to the parking lot.
From the southern side of the Foothills Parkway, you can enter from Hwy 129 (also known as the The Dragon) and follow it approximately 8 miles to the parking lot.
On your navigation app, put in directions to “Foothills Parkway Southwest Parking #6, Foothills Pkwy, Maryville, TN 37803” and that will get you to the exact parking area that you need to be at to easily access the Trailhead.
Look Rock Hike
You can spend a little time walking around the Parking Lot area. There are some pretty views and overhangs that you can check out. Be sure to keep the little ones close by as there are some potentially treacherous drop-offs.
*Fun Fact – Back in the day when I was MUCH younger, some of my friends and I used to go rock climbing here (with trained climbing experts and gear, of course!). In addition to this area near the parking lot, there are also some other great rock climbing areas below the observation tower.
Let the Hiking Begin
From the parking lot, you will walk down the sidewalk and cross the road to get to the Look Rock Tower Trailhead. Take a minute to stop and read the sign. It has some interesting facts about the Look Rock Tower history.
The hike up to Look Rock Tower is about .5 miles. It usually doesn’t take too long since it is paved the entire way.
A Turn in the Road (or Trail)
The first part of the trail will come to an end at a paved road. You will have the choice to go right or left. Take a left and head on up the mountain.
Pretty quickly you will pass an air quality station on your right which monitors air quality and collects information for the National Park Service.
Along with Look Rock Tower, scientists use this air quality monitoring station to study the quality of the air. It is fenced off but you can take a look around as you pass by. There are also some good boulders to sit on to take a break if needed.
Once you make it to the base of the tower, there is a rock to the right before you head up the ramp. This is a great photo opportunity. The kids always want a picture standing on the rock (and so does Matt…ha!).
And if you need another quick rest before proceeding up to the tower, there is a great bench right across from the rock. It’s also great for little boys to play on.
At the Top of Look Rock Tower
Head on up the ramps to the top of the viewing platform to get some amazing panoramic views of the Smokies.
Once to the top, you can see some of the highest peaks of the Smoky Mountains when you look to the east. Over to the west, you can see the Foothills of the Smokies and the Tennessee River Valley. There are some great maps up at the top that show all of the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas.
If you look closely, you can even get a glimpse of Fort Loudon Lake on a clear day.
And of course, be sure to take a few selfies while you are up there. Or better yet, if you’re lucky and some other visitors are there, you can ask them to take a picture for you!
Depending on the day and season that you visit, you may get many different views (none which are terrible!).
On a very clear day, you can see up to 40 miles!
On the more cloudy or hazy days, the view may be a little more limited but its still a very beautiful view of the Great Smoky Mountains!
Also, depending on the season, the views will be slightly different. The above pictures were in early fall and winter. Here are a few in the summer time. You can see the trees are more full.
Spend as much time as you would like up at the top. It really is a very peaceful place to spend a few minutes soaking in the sunshine and the beautiful sights.
We will often times bring snacks and let the kids sit up there and eat them while we take it all in. Take a few more pics and head back down when your crew is ready!
The return trip is downhill all the way, so its easy sailing from here!
That’s a Wrap!
Our round trip hike to and from Look Rock Tower took us about 45 minutes. We stayed up at the top and explored for about 10 minutes or so.
Once we were loaded up in the car, we got back on the road. Along the way, we caught some pretty colors in the sky as the sun began to set.
If you have time, be sure to try out the rest of the Foothills Parkway and even consider heading on over to the Missing Link of the Foothills Parkway!
A Few Things To Consider
- Check out the webcam at the top of Look Rock to see what the conditions are like before you head that way.
- Be sure to pack snacks and plenty of water for everyone. There are not any water fountains nearby, so plan accordingly.
- Hit the bathrooms before you make your way to Look Rock Tower. There are not any bathrooms accessible in the area. Bring some tissues or toilet paper for emergencies.
- Watch your little ones very carefully near the overhangs and at the top of the tower. The sides are rather low at the top so be sure to keep a close eye on the kiddos!
- Take your binoculars with you to see further into the distance. For locals, its fun to let your kids look closer into neighboring areas like Maryville & pick out landmarks in the town.
- Head on over to the Missing Link of the Foothills Parkway before or after your hike to take in even more views of the Great Smoky Mountains!
Hiking and being outdoors is always so refreshing! It was a great fresh start to the new year and just perfect for our first family adventure of 2019!
Look Rock Tower Trail will always be one of our family’s favorite quick and easy hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s rarely crowded, easily accessible and offers great views of the area!
Have you been to Look Rock before? What are some of your favorite things about visiting the Look Rock Tower Trail? Be sure to comment below to share!
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