June 1, 2019
I have put off these two towers on the Lookout Tower Challenge for quite some time. They are short hikes, but they are located very far from where I live. Joanna Bald (or Teyahalee Bald) is located in Andrews, NC and Panther Top is in Murphy, NC. Both are located in the westernmost county of North Carolina.
Joanna is not hard to find, from Hwy. 19, go towards Tatham Gap Road. Follow Tatham (which becomes gravel very quickly) to Tatham Gap. There you will see a memorial sign for the Trail of Tears. Take the right, unmarked FR road (423), which you follow (it is steep) for 4 miles. At the gate to FR 423B, park your car. The hike up and back is only 1 mile and is not hard. The views are not great, with just one view of Cheoah Bald to the northeast. The actual tower of Joanna is nice, but the towers and electrical equipment don’t exactly make for a great mountaintop experience.
Panther Top on the other hand is tremendous. To get there, take Hwy. 19 to Hwy. 294 (turn off for Hiawassee Dam High School) for a mile, turn right onto Panther Top Road and simply follow the signs on FR 85 to get to the tower. There is a shooting range near the tower (which is no danger to hikers other than an abundance of jack-up trucks and right-wing testosterone in the area).
Panther Top appears to be a full functioning, remodeled tower that is still in use. It provides stunning 360 degree views of the area.
Total mileage is 2.57 miles.