Peter J. Barr first visited the Shuckstack lookout tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2004, and it was there he became fascinated with fire towers, obsessed with hiking, and infatuated with the southern Appalachian Mountains, sparking two decades of backcountry exploration, mountain climbing, lookout tower research and restorations, and a career in conservation. After earning a degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peter was inspired to learn more about the abandoned and forgotten fire lookout towers scattered across western North Carolina’s summits. In 2008, he authored Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers and subsequently initiated the North Carolina chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association, an organization working to restore and preserve historic fire lookout towers in western NC. His efforts, in partnership with numerous agencies and funders, have since facilitated the restoration of 10 lookout towers across the region and developed an increased public awareness for the heritage of these historic structures.
An accomplished hiker and peakbagger, he has traversed all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reached the highest points in 45 U.S. states and all 100 North Carolina counties, and climbed the Adirondack 46ers, New England Highest Hundred, all summits (790) above 4,000 feet in elevation in the eastern United States, and more than 2,000 ranked peaks nationwide. He completed a thru-hike of the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail in 2010.
Peter has served for a decade as Trails Director of local land trust Conserving Carolina, where has pursued implementation of a recreation trail network on conserved lands in the dramatic Hickory Nut Gorge, designing and constructing more than 20 miles of new sustainable trails. He is a two-time nationally award-winning trail designer, earning the Coalition of Recreational Trail’s awards for excellence for the Weed Patch Mountain Trail (2018) and Wildcat Rock Trail (2019). During his time at Conserving Carolina he also authored the monthly “Stories of the Land” column for the Hendersonville Times-News for six years, chronicling the human connection to protected lands and special natural places.
Peter and his wife, Allison, make their home in Asheville, NC, though they’re currently—and indefinitely—adventuring full-time across the United States in their RV with their cat Oscar (the Grouch).