018 – Camp Creek Bald Fire Tower

Tower Height: 21 Feet

Tower Elevation: 4843 Feet

Upper deck open: No

View: Nice

Hike Route: Hickey Fork Tr, Pounding Mill Tr, AT and Whiteoak Tr

Hike Distance: 10.7 mile loop

Like many of the towers I hike to in North Carolina, The Camp Creek Bald Tower can be accessed from numerous starting points. The route I took is not the easiest but I wasn’t looking for easy.

Our hike began at the Hickey Fork Trailhead on Hickey Fork Road. From the parking area, we walked up Hickey Fork Rd to the marker for the Hickey Fork Tr and crossed the log bridge. The trail will meander higher after you cross. At 1.2 miles the trail comes alongside West Prong Hickey Fork Falls. Several side paths lead down to the base of the falls but unless there has been a lot of rain, the falls is not much to see. Once you pass the falls the trail will begin to climb steeply at times for the next 1.2 miles. This segment was by far the worst of it. At 2.4 miles the Hickey Fork Trail intersects the Pounding Mill Tr.

The Pounding Mill Tr is mostly a grassy logging road that is easy to follow and while continuing to climb, the slope is more gradual. At 1.3 miles from the junction with the Hickey Fork Tr, the Pounding Mill Tr will begin to parallel the AT. The two will run parallel for a tenth of a mile before the Pounding Mill Tr veers away. Near the point where the Pounding Mill Tr turned, we walked through the mostly open woods and hopped on the AT. The AT and Pounding Mill Tr eventually cross, with the overgrown Pounding Mill Trail climbing steeply while the AT takes a longer switchback. We followed the AT through the switchback back to where it passed close to the Pounding Mill Tr again.

At an open area near a campsite, the Pounding Mill Tr can be seen to the left and a short trail connects to it. There is a sign here for Camp Creek Bald and a trail heading up the mountain. Take the Pounding Mill Tr until it gets to the summit of the bald. Once you get here you will see a lot of cell towers but not the fire tower. To reach it you can follow the access road around the top of the bald to a steeper road on the right which leads to the tower.

Access to the top of the tower is blocked by a locked hatch but if you climb to the first landing, you will have a nice mountain view without the towers that would block the view in every other direction. The shape of the tower is different than most with the cabin being circular and not looking like most of the CCC build erector set towers in SC and NC. The tower is not in the best of shape and the support buildings are little better.

When we left, we followed the road off the other side of the summit and it led back toward the open area where we arrived, paralleling a fence around one of the towers. In my planning for the hike, I wanted this to be a loop hike so depending on how you want to return, you could reverse the same hike or you could take the route I mapped.

Leaving the summit on the Pounding Mill Tr, we hiked back to the campsite near the AT but this time we took the shorter and steeper Pounding Mill Tr. At the outset the trail is overgrown and there is some downfall to negotiate before it descends steeply to meet the AT. Make a right and follow the AT for 0.4 miles until it starts paralleling the Pounding Mill Tr. Find a place where the woods are open and cross the 60 feet separating the two trails. Once you are on the Pounding Mill Tr, use it to reach a junction with the Whiteoak Tr on the left. We made a left onto the Whiteoak Tr and followed it 2 miles to a split.

At the split stay to the left and start hiking on Big Rocky Road. The road is to vehicle traffic and where the Whiteoak Tr emerges onto the road would be a good place to leave a second vehicle to eliminate hiking the road. If I do this hike again, I would use this option. Big Rocky Rd connects to Hickey Fork Rd in half a mile. Stay to the right and follow Hickey Fork Rd back to the TH. This last section covers 1.4 miles and brings the total hike to 10.7 miles.