First Firetower Hike

Follow along as spring intern, Daniel Boone High School graduate, and current Northeast State Community College student Keely Dalton explores Bays Mountain and the iconic firetower for the first time.

Northeast Tennessee has some of the most beautiful places to hike, you can easily find yourself totally emerged in the beauty of the mountains. I’ve been to many places around the area such as Buffalo Mountain in Johnson City and parts of the Appalachian Trail, but never have I experienced anything like the Bays Mountain Firetower in Kingsport. With views for miles over Bays Mountain Park, this is hands down one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever been on! I got to see parts of the park I’ve never seen before, and learned about even more hikes that I will definitely be bringing my friends along for next time.

The Hike

Starting off, hiking through the Lakeside Trail near the park’s nature center was a breeze. Dodging puddles, wonky rocks, and roots were the only obstacles in the way. About a fourth of the way on the trail came one of my favorite parts of the whole hike. There was a small branch of the lake that led deeper into the forest. The lake became more like a stream with small pools connecting to each section. The water was clear and colored like sea glass, and you could see the sand with all the little fish swimming around, and going about their day. The peacefulness of the forest around me, and the view of the beautiful, vast lake was so enchanting that it was enough to make anybody feel like they had just stepped into a totally different world. 

The rest of the hike was just as serene as the beginning. Listening to the birds chirp and the streams trickle, made it feel even more inviting to continue to explore. Although the hike was quite tranquil, I still had to use my inhaler on the way up. Just once though, which I am pretty proud of. 

The Tower

Finally, getting to the top was the most rewarding part! The climb was difficult as the trail grew steeper over switchbacks.  As we peeked over the hill, we were not only met with the sight of the firetower, but with a whole kaleidoscope of butterflies. There were so many and they just fluttered around our heads as if to greet and congratulate us for reaching the top. As I gazed up the tower in amazement, being that it was my first time seeing one at all, an eagle appeared from within the trees and started to fly around the tower like it was inviting us to the top. The view was spectacular, breath-taking actually.

I’ll never forget the feeling of being so in tune with the nature around me standing at the top of that tower. With the wind in my face and, flowing through my hair, I felt so empowered. The eagle was still flying around us which made it feel like an even more  extraordinary moment! 

Bays Mountain Park has been one of my favorite places to go since I was a kid. But this hike, in particular, made it even more special to me. Making new friends, being immersed in nature, and seeing some of the animals I love are among my favorite things about being in the park. You can have the same experience and maybe even a better one when you visit the park for their 50th anniversary this year. Happy hiking! 

Written by Keely Dalton for Northeast Tennessee Tourism. 

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