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Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Trail Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
miles
LENGTH 10.5 MILES
DIFFICULTY 18.3 Medium
Hard
DURATION 4-6 hours
ELEVATION GAIN
2880
feet
TRAIL TYPE
There And
Back Again
Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Trail

Often referred to as the best day hike in the Smokies, the Alum Cave Trail does not disappoint on it's way to the summit of Mt. LeConte. With great views and distinctive features, this is also one of the most popular trails in the area. Bring a jacket in case it rains.

The trail begins on US-441, a few miles west of Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome road. From the parking area, the trail starts off easy, crossing two bridges over the Walker Camp prong and the Alum Cave creek, then continuing along the latter. At 1.4 miles, the trail climbs up a rock staircase passing through the Arch rock. These steps are steep and slippery and should be climbed with caution using the railing. This can be a bottleneck for thru traffic.

From Arch Rock to Alum Cave Bluffs, the path becomes gradually steeper. Shortly before reaching Alum Cave Bluffs, the trail makes a 90 degree turn North. This marks Inspiration Point, great spot to stop and soak in the view. While technically it is referred to as a rock shelter, Alum Cave Bluff is definitely not a cave. The giant rock outcropping can accommodate several hundred people and is a great place to stop for a rest, especially if it is raining. If you fancy a shorter hike, Alum Cave Bluffs makes a good turn around point while still being an excellent hike.

This point is roughly half way to the top of Mt. LeConte. The next 2.8 miles to the Lodge is the most difficult section of the trail. Along the way, there are numerous sections of exposed rock ledges that only afford several feet of room to pass. Many of these have water running down the sides of the rock, making it slippery even when not raining. Most of these have a steel wire handrail for safety. Before reaching the lodge, the trail flattens out and joins with the Rainbow Falls trail. The lodge is about a tenth of a mile past this point. Stop by the office to look around or purchase Mt. LeConte t-shirts and other merchandise.

Continue past the lodge for another half milealong the Boulevard Trail. Pass Mt. LeConte shelter (permit required) on the right until you reach the rock cairn to mark the summit of Mt. LeConte. Make sure to add your own rock to the pile. Hey, that's pretty good. Now head back down the way you came.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Terrain Map Click to control map
Details
length10.5 miles
difficulty18.3 Medium-Hard
duration4 - 6 hours
features Lake/River  Summit  Views 
trail typeThere And Back Again
blazeNone
elevation gain2880 ft.
state Tennessee 
park/forestGreat Smoky Mountains National Park
ranger districtGreat Smoky Mountain National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
865-436-1200
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.629117, -83.450968 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°37.75, W 83°27.06 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°37'45'', N 35°37'45'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Directions Trailhead Coordinates
35.629117, -83.450968 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°37.75, W 83°27.06 most GPS units use this one
N 35°37'45'', N 35°37'45'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
From North Carolina, the trailhead is on the right 4.3 miles past the Newfound Gap overlook. From Tennessee, the trailhead is on the left 1.4 miles after the loop-de-loop.
Notes
For information on LeConte Lodge or for reservations, call 865-429-5704. The lodge generally fills up a year in advance, so book early.
Use the cable handrails where available. Even when not raining, many rock are still very slick.
Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
5 (1)
hikethesouth-3 weeks ago
Best Hike in the Smokies?
This is one of my favorite hikes in the entire Southeast. There's so much to love about this trail. Beautiful views, fog covered peaks, picturesque streams, and more. If you want a long hike that provides plenty of challenge, this is it.
Medium-Hard | Hiked Summer 2011
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