Fontana Dam, North Carolina 28733


Shuckstack Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"Shuckstack Tower is an old fire tower, one of few remaining in the park. At its base are the old tower-keeper’s cistern and the foundation and chimney of the cabin. For such a difficult and remote hike, a surprising number of people make the trek to Shuckstack.

Most people backtrack from the tower for a 7.0-mile walk. This hike details a longer loop that experienced hikers can still do in a day. Two campsites provide the opportunity to turn this trip into an overnighter."

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Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Hikes of the Appalachian Trail South (Menasha Ridge Press)
Johnny Molloy
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"This is a rewarding but long day hike or good backpack. Travel the history-sprinkled Lakeshore Trail with many pre-park relics. Enjoy views of Fontana Lake. Climb along secluded Lost Cove Creek to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Reach astonishing vistas from atop Shuckstack fire tower. Trace the A.T. back down to the trailhead and Fontana Lake."

Shuckstack Trip Reports

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This is a great overnight loop. We parked at the Fontana Dam visitor center and felt very secure leaving our car there. We followed the trail counter-clockwise and hit the AT leg last. We hiked about 6 miles to the lower campsite the first day and really enjoyed the camp site...great open water access and nice sites.

The second half of the trail was much tougher...lots of tedious water crossings and a tough climb with lots of switch-backs. Go ahead and bite the bullet by taking off your shoes early. I wasted a lot of time trying to cross using fallen trees and rocks to avoid removing my shoes. Some of the crossings are too wide to avoid wet feet. I suggest bringing flipflops for that leg of the hike.

We added a few miles to the hike by following the AT to the first campsite and ate lunch there. The hike back to the dam was a ridgeline run and the descent was quite steep. Beautiful section of the trail.

The highlight of the trip was the view from Shuckstack Tower itself. You could see the dam and Fontana lake. I also liked posing with the old rusted cars where the highway used to be. Very cool.

This is a one-nighter or a very full day hike. Highly recommended.

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Trail Information

Fontana Dam
Nearby City
Trail Type
Skill Level
6 hours or Overnight
Best season: Spring for the wildflowers
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Local Contacts
Fontana Dam USGS quad; Trails Illustrated #229 Great Smoky Mountains; Trails Illustrated #316 Cades Cove Elkmont
Local Maps

Trail Log