A few miles north of Farner, TN, Hwy 68 winds toward Tellico Plains. A ride organized for those of us attending the 2012 Southeastern Regional Overland Rally spent some time in the area, and we got a chance to stop off at Buck Bald to enjoy the scenery from this 2,344′ summit.
Buck Bald is worth visiting not only for it’s great height, but for its 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding hills. If you’re passing through the area, Buck Bald provides a 30-minute diversion with a simple dirt road ride and a place to take in a view while stretching your legs.
The site was the home of a fire tower that has removed, leaving only some concrete footing remnants and “C-15” poured in concrete to identify the site from the air. The location would have been a natural selection for an observation post given it’s unimpeded 360-degree view.
Accessing Buck bald is from Old State Highway 68, a gravel and dirt road that runs east off Hwy 68 at N35.210/W84.343 just south of the town of Coker Creek. Old State Hwy 68 makes a few turns as it climbs about 1.7 miles through the forest toward the turnoff of National Forest Hwy 198. NF 198 continues .7 miles to the summit. There is a gate at the turnoff to Hwy 198, and presumably access is restricted at times.
Continuing on Old State Hwy 68 past the National Hwy 198 turn provides a scenic ride through the forest, following a ridgeline and some switchbacks before ultimately returning near the pavement at Hwy 68 a few miles south. This backroad exit is a pleasant trip and provides an excuse to avoid some unnecessary pavement.
The ride up NF 198 to the summit is short and not very steep. At the top is a small parking area and a path to drive to the grassy knoll with a single picnic table at the very peak. The total climb is about 750′ from the Highway 68 pavement.