Looking for a quick hike with beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains? Look Rock Tower Trail is a perfect beginner hike for the young and old (and everyone in-between!)
Read on to learn more about this family-friendly hike and our tips that we have learned along the way!
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Hiking in the Smoky Mountains
As with any National Park, before you head out to explore, it never hurts to have on-hand some reliable and trustworthy resources for easy reference.
Here are a few of our favorite pocket guides that we recommend for hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains:
Look Rock Tower Hike Trail Information
- Round Trip Length: 1 mile (approx.)
- Trail Location: On the Foothills Parkway (near Townsend, TN)
- Directions: Foothills Parkway Southwest Parking #6
- Trail Features: Tower, Panoramic Views
- Round Trip Hours: 1 hour (or less)
- Difficulty: Easy
A round trip hike to and from Look Rock Tower usually takes us about 45 minutes. We will stay up at the top and explore for about 10 minutes or so before we head back down.
Look Rock Tower Trail offers one of the shortest hikes you can find in and around the Smoky Mountains. 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!
How Do I Get to Look Rock Tower?
Although the picnic area was closed in 2013, it just recently reopened for a short season in 2019. Hopefully we will see it open more in the coming years as well!
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.
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.
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 when I was growing up, 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.
Another 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.
Hiking to Look Rock Tower
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.
Locating the Look Rock Tower Trailhead
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.
On the Trail
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.
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. There is not any signage there, so be sure to take a LEFT and head on up the mountain.
Pretty quickly you will pass an air quality station on your right which 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 at 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. You can also reference the map up at the top that shows all of the peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas, like Clingmans Dome and Mount Le Conte.
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 pictures while you are up there. And if you luck out and there are some other visitors are there, you can ask them to take a family 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 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 it’s easy sailing from here!
Just be sure to take a right back down the trail you came up, as again there are not any signs marking the way!
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.
- 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.
Drive the Foothills Parkway
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!
It is a great family-friendly hike to introduce your kids to hiking and will hopefully be a great foundation for building a love of hiking!
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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