Photo Essay: An Autumn Group Hike to Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower

First posted in November, 1999

Over the past couple of years, I've had the extreme pleasure of doing presentations and guided hikes for the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association. As part of that tradition, I led a group of seasoned hikers to the Mt. Cammerer fire tower this past October.

Taking breaks along the way

We began in Cosby Campground, and, after collecting all the folks that had showed up (unfortunately more in the neighborhood of 17 individuals, rather than the 25 or so I had expected), we left the Lower Mt. Cammerer trailhead. The group was comprised of experienced hikers, and we maintained a good pace. Rest stops were taken along the way at the Sutton Ridge Overlook, backcountry campsite 35, the Phillips cemetery, and finally at the junction with the infamous Appalachian Trail (see above photo).

Once on the AT, we made the short but very steep 2.3 mile climb to Mt. Cammerer. We rested again briefly at the trail junction before walking the fairly easy 0.6 mile side trail to the tower itself. Despite the fact that we had already walked over ten miles, the group was in excellent spirits and eager to see the view we had walked so far to achieve.

I can be seen admiring the view from the tower in this photo (taken by my friend Michal Strutin). The day had turned out to be perfect for hiking, and the skies were crisp and clear, providing an excellent view of the mountains surrounding the tower. Mt. Cammerer fire tower lies 4,928 feet above sea level, and is a prime location for enjoying the autumn color in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As it turned out, our group was not the only one on Mt. Cammerer that day. A number of folks had made the climb, including a group of college students who were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather by sunning themselves on the rocks below the tower. Our group ate lunch and spent time chatting and taking photographs. After nearly three-quarters of an hour, the group packed up and began their descent back to Cosby Campground.

Packing up to go home

We had reached the tower via a long, slow climb up the Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail, but made our descent back to the campground via the Low Gap Trail, which was a steeper, but considerably shorter route back. We found ourselves back in the campground after only five miles. Our overall leisurely pace placed us back at our cars just before dusk.

I want to thank those that signed up for the hike... I had a great time, and our trek will be one of the lasting memories I have of the Smokies as I make my move to Alaska. I hope to return and lead another hike for NHA in the future, and I hope to see some of you then! Here's one last look from the tower...

One last look from the tower