Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluff

Tennessee Alum Cave Trailhead

Added by Bradley Burgess

  • 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!)
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Backpacking, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



11 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3982 Feet




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How to Get There

14 days ago

One of my Favorites

This is definitely in the top 5 of my favorite hikes in the Smokies. The views are great, and the cabins at the top are adorable. I would recommend going the extra 0.7 miles to Myrtle Point.

14 days ago

9 months ago

Been A Long Time

This was the first major hike I ever did; back in the 90's. After this hike up the mountain I was hooked!

9 months ago

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