Smith Mountain is a prominent hill rising much higher than surrounding terrain. Located on a peninsula extending into Lake Martin, it offers a 270 degree view of the lake. Atop the mountain is a historic fire tower built in the 1930s and used for decades by the Alabama Forestry Commission. The tower has been fully restored to better than new condition with extra bracing added for strength and stability and fencing along all stairways and landings making it safe and accessible to the public for free. Smith Mountain itself is owned by the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association. The land surrounding Smith Mountain is owned by Alabama Power Company designated to remain “natural undeveloped” in accordance with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission guidelines. Alabama Power Company allows the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association to build and maintain several miles of hiking trails on their property. The property is unique in the area for old growth mountain longleaf pine forests and miles of secluded, undeveloped shoreline.
A series of footpath only trails originate from the Smith Mountain parking lot. In addition to the Tower Trail to the historic fire tower, there is the Lakeshore Trail that winds along secluded shorelines of Lake Martin, the rugged Little Smith Mountain Trail, and the Island Hop Trail that connects a series of islands (accessible only during winter low water levels). The trails can also be accessed by boat. The trail difficulty ranges from moderate to difficult.
Black and Turkey Vultures are almost always soaring around Smith Mountain. While a common sight in many places, the 90 foot fire lookout tower enables you to see vultures from above, a unique perspective enjoyed by many. Smith Mountain’s old growth mountain longleaf pines host many woodpeckers. Along the shoreline herons are common and migratory waterfowl are frequent visitors in winter.
A lot of the signature rock work of the Civilian Conservation Corp from the 1930s is still visible on top of Smith Mountain including rock walls and steps. The old Alabama Forestry Commission building has been torn down, but its rock wall foundations remain as does the old cistern and pit toilet.
The primary draw to the area is the fully restored historic fire lookout tower. It provides one of the most spectacular views in the State. Lake Martin seems to wrap around the tower and the mountains of Talladega National Forest can be seen to the north. The hiking trails are also extremely popular. In Spring, the hillsides are brightened first by Piedmont rhododendron and native azaleas. In mid-April to May there is a breathtaking display of mountain laurel on the rugged hill sides.
Directions: Travel U.S. Hwy 280 to Dadeville and turn South onto AL Hwy 49. At the first blinking light turn right onto W. Lafayette St. In 1.4 mi., turn left onto Young’s Ferry Road. In 3.4 mi., turn left onto Smith Mtn. Drive. In 0.2 mi. turn right onto Tower Road and follow to the parking lot for Smith Mountain area trail heads.
There are brown signs for the “Historic Fire Tower” at every turn.