UNICOI — The town of Unicoi Business Alliance has laid out a challenge to determine which hiking enthusiasts can reach the Pinnacle Fire Tower atop Buffalo Mountain the fastest.
The organization will hold the first-ever Pinnacle Trail Challenge and Family Fun Hike Oct. 12. The event is comprised of two portions — a timed hike/run to the tower and a family hike.
Participants in the timed challenge will compete to complete the nearly 5-mile hike up the mountain to the tower as quickly as possible. Monetary awards will be given to the top three men and top three women competing in the challenge. The man and woman completing the challenge with the quickest times will receive $75. Those finishing second will receive $50 and those finishing third will each receive $25.
Plaques will also be awarded to participants finishing first, second and third across five age groups. The challenge will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Unicoi Tourist Information Center, located directly off Exit 32 of Interstate 26. Those wishing to register may do so in advance at www.runsignup.com or by calling the town of Unicoi Parks and Recreation Department at 735-0426.
Registration for the timed competition is $45 in advance. Those interested may also register the day of the event beginning at 7:30 a.m. The registration fee that day is $60. Pre-registrants will also receive a T-shirt. The untimed, non-competitive family fun hike portion will begin at 8:45 a.m., and participation in this portion is free.
Alliance President Brian Dunbar said proceeds from the event will go toward restoration and maintenance of the Pinnacle Fire Tower Trail trailhead. He said the event is also being held to not only bolster the local economy and draw visitors from outside of the area to the town of Unicoi, but also to recognize the U.S. Forest Service, which is co-sponsoring the event.
Dunbar said the Forest Service is responsible for completing the work to bring about the hiking/biking trail, a popular attraction in Unicoi.
“They’ve really not been recognized for what they’ve done to open this trail up and, evidently, it’s the most used trail in Northeast Tennessee,” he said.
Dunbar also said the trail is ideal for both competitors and those looking to take part in the more casual family portion of the event, as it was constructed with an easy-to-manage, 6 percent grade.
“They made it to where it doesn’t take an extreme athlete to hike it,” he said. “It’s low-grade, back and forth, going up, it’s not real steep.”
Reaching the recently renovated tower should also serve as motivation for those taking part in the event to complete the hike up Buffalo Mountain, Dunbar said.
“It’s a beautiful panoramic view from the tower all the way around,” he said. “It’s a nice goal for people to get up there.”
For more information on the event, call Unicoi Town Hall at 743-7162.