There are three different ways to access the Fire Tower trail in Paris Mountain State Park. Your first option is to take the Sulphur Springs trail from Mountain Lake, and there’s also a connector linking it to Kanuga trail; however, the easiest and shortest choice is to take Sulphur Springs from the upper parking area where the Brissy Ridge loop departs. (For the Paris Mountain State Park trail map click here)
The section of Sulphur Springs from the kiosk to its intersection with Fire Tower is somewhere about 1.3 miles, while Fire Tower is 0.4 miles one way, making the there-and-back hike a total of about 3.4 miles. It would be a whole lot shorter, but instead of crossing the Mountain Lake drainage it skirts around the various side-tributaries, making for a slightly longer, but less strenuous hike. As the trees haven’t leafed out yet there were some nice views to the Southwest, and exposed rock jutting out to the ridge side provided contrast to panoramas over the predominantly hardwoods draw.
At its intersection with the Fire Tower trail, Sulphur Springs cuts south in a steep descent into the drainage, following the creek to Mountain Lake. Meanwhile the Fire Tower trail turns north, ascending 400 feet in elevation along an old road bed. You see the private homes before you see the ruins of the old fire tower house, as this is the very west boundary of Paris Mountain State Park.
What is today only a foundation and a couple of chimneys was once a four-room house, well, barn, smokehouse, chicken coop and outhouse, along with an 84-ft steel fire tower. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1938, the site was abandoned only five years later when the tower was moved to a spot at a higher elevation. Although there are fantastic views to the west, the mountain blocks a 360˚ view – not the case in the Tower Road location.
That fire tower has since been decommissioned; for more on the Paris Mountain summit and the Altmont Hotel that once stood there, here are two articles on the subject…
It was turning into a rather warm March day, and running dangerously low on snacks and energy we headed back the way we came. It took us (two moms, a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 year old riding in a backpack harness) a total of 2.5 hours to hike there and back, allowing for frequent stops to explore, examine objects found on the trail, and to snack. I would have liked to spend additional time at the summit, exploring the ruins and taking in the view, and the last ½ mile was slightly hurried – next time I will budget closer to 3 hours for the round trip.