Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluff

Alum Cave Trailhead, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    11 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3982 Feet

Forest
Scenic

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!)
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

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

about 1 month ago
about 1 month ago

I strongly suggest doing an overnight hike to Mt. Leconte. The sunset and sunrise were the highlight of my trip. We stayed at the shelter, which was okay. Only down side is the mice. If you want more comfort make a reservation at the lodge, they will serve dinner for you and everything.

9 months ago
9 months ago

Great, long day hike! Set out early and take your time. Also recommend checking the expected weather info for the top of the mountain before summiting. Temps and visibility are worth preparing for. Enjoy!

9 months ago
9 months ago

AH! I loved this hike so much. So many great geological features, great distance and great elevation gain. It'll definitely have your heart rate up but it's so worth it. Hike the extra 0.7 out to Myrtle Point and make sure to allow extra time to stop and really enjoy the many views and changing terrain. Loved this hike so much!

9 months ago
9 months ago

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.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

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

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

3 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves