Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluff

Alum Cave Trailhead

Distance: 11 miles round trip. Elevation gain: 3,982 ft. Fantastic panoramic views of Smoky Mountains. One of the area's tallest peaks at 6,593'.

The Alum Cave trailhead is on Newfound Gap Road, 8 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Mt. LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies, and this is an extremely popular hike, so arrive early to get a parking spot and beat the crowds.

Starting from the parking lot the trail gently winds beside Alum Cave Creek for just over a mile before reaching Arch Rock, where hikers will climb a stone staircase through the rock. Another mile will bring you Alum Cave, which is actually a large bluff. A worthy destination on its own, this is a great spot to take a break, drink some water, and take it all in. From here, the trail gets steeper and more difficult, meandering through a quiet forest. Some of the sections of the trail lie on an exposed ridge, so there are steel cables bolted into the rock to hold onto. These are particularly helpful in winter as snow and ice can blanket the Smokies with little warning!

Five miles from the trailhead you reach a junction with the Rainbow Falls Trail at LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. Continue on the trail past the lodge to the summit, known as High Top, for unbeatable views. It would be very easy to turn this 11 mile day hike into an overnighter by reserving a room at the LeConte Lodge or staying at the Appalachian Trail shelters nearby (hikers need to make reservations with the Backcountry Reservations Office (865) 436-1231).

Pack List

  • Day pack
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Sturdy hiking shoes/boots
  • Camera
  • Jacket or rain shell (this is a must bring in late fall and winter, temperatures can be much colder at the summit!)
Show More
RT Distance 11 Miles
Elevation Gain 3982 Feet
Activities Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Worth the views!

Mt. LeConte is an awesome hike and such a great workout. It's a very popular hike so you won't have the trail to yourself, but the views are totally worth it. There's something for everyone - water, switchbacks, and wildflowers! There's an option to stay in the lodging at the top (book ahead) or buy a sack lunch. I did this hike in the rain and still loved every minute of it.

The best hike in the smokies

If you only have time to do one hike in the smokies, this is your hike. It has everything. Waterfalls, scenic views, large gains in altitude. I am counting down the days until I can do this again!

Awesome Hike!

Great details about the trail and the hike is definitely one of my favorites ever!


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