Some twenty miles north of the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail is the Smith Mountain Alpine Trail. The highest elevation around Lake Martin, Smith Mountain is a jagged peak mountain in the Sandy Creek area of the lake. The top of Smith Mountain is rugged. Gneiss boulders and outcroppings jut upward and outward from the ground in all directions. These jagged rock formations dissect the mountain top into a series of rough terraces that are for the most part disconnected. A house-sized crag consisting of numerous boulders stands out from and above the rest of the peak.
Standing majestically atop Smith Mountain is the historic 90-foot fire lookout tower. Erected in 1939 as a cooperative agreement between Alabama Power Company, Tallapoosa County Forest Conservation Association, and the Alabama Forestry Commission, the tower was a sentinel for locating forest fires for 40 years.
Decommissioned in 1980, the fire lookout tower fell into neglect and disrepair. The office building was dismantled along with other facilities. The property (10 acres) reverted back to Alabama Power Company and had been abused by dumping for the last 30 years.
In November 2010, Smith Mountain was deeded to the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association (CRATA). The tower has been restored and upgraded with new safety features and is now open to the public. Visiting time is daylight until 30 minutes after sunset, daily.
A trail begins at the base of Smith Mountain and ascends the northern and western slope for about .4 mile. The trail descends the southern and eastern slope of the mountain for about .6 mile back to the parking lot. The view from the tower is nothing less than spectacular. There are rules for visiting the tower and they are strictly enforced. Alcohol, drugs, firearms and camping is prohibited. Picnicking is allowed but you must take all trash with you. Pets are not allowed on the tower but are allowed on the trail on leash. To reach Smith Mountain, go to Dadeville, AL. Take Lafayette Street West approximately 1 mile, turn left on Young's Ferry Road. Go approximately 4 miles and turn left on Smith Mountain Drive. Keep right to Tower Road and parking lot.
In addition to the Smith Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, there are 5 miles of hiking trails. After the half-mile hike to the top of Smith Mountain, you will see the hiking trail signs to your right before you climb the wood steps that lead to the tower. The two main trails are the Lake Shore Trail and the Little Smith Mountain Trail. The Island Hop Trail is accessible only during winter months when the lake is down. The Lake Shore Trail is a two-mile trail that descends the western slope to the lake shore and follows the shoreline for most of the two miles.
When you have completed the two miles, you have the option of returning to the parking lot (.4 mile) or hiking the two-mile Little Smith Mountain Trail. The Little Smith Mountain Trail can also be reached by a .2 mile trail from the stop of Smith Mountain. The Little Smith Mountain Trail is dramatic. There are four resting benches with some spectacular views - one bench on a peninsula, two on the south face, and one on the top. The Little Smith Mountain Trail will end at the parking lot.
The Island Hop Trail can be reached from the top of Smith Mountain via a one-mile trail (look for the sign). It can also be reached from the Lake Shore Trail (also look for the sign).
The Lake Shore Trail and Little Smith Mountain Trail are loop trails, the Island Hop Trail is an out and back trail.