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Mt Leconte Summit via Alum Cave Trail

Hike to the top of Mt. Leconte via the Alum Cave Trail inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 12 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  The Alum Cave Trail is the shortest and steepest of the five trails leading to the Le Conte massif, which contains four separate peaks... more »

Tips:  From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, drive 8.7 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to the Alum Cave Trailhead. The parking lot is on... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Parking/Trailhead

Get here early, because this parking lot fills up fast.

2. Crossing Creeks

The Alum Cave Trail begins its ascent at 3,830 feet by quickly crossing two streams: Walker Camp Prong and Alum Cave Creek, the latter of which flanks the trail for the first 1.3 miles (2.1 km) of its length. This first leg of the trail leads you through an old-growth forest, consisting largely of hemlock and yellow birch and is relatively easy,... More

3. Arch Rock

The first notable landmark comes 1.3 miles into the hike at what is known as "Arch Rock", which is a large black slate rock that has, over millennia, come to create, as the name indicates, a large natural arch. Hikers maneuver easily through the cold, moist rock via stairs and steel cables acting as handrails which are placed at numerous points... More

4. Inspiration Point

A hiker who ascends beyond Arch Rock will gradually hear the shift from the powerful company of Alum Cave Creek to the smaller Styx Branch, which accompanies the path for a short distance. Inspiration Point is the next landmark along this less trafficked, though still popular, portion of the trail. Upon this outcropping of rocks about 4,700 feet... More

Welcome to the ubiquitous orange clay of Alum Cave Bluff. The bluff is at 4,950 feet in elevation, and is 80 feet in height. The bluff is the final destination along the trail for many hikers. In winter, massive icicles often form and crash down onto the trail, making the bluff dangerous; in other seasons, the bluff forms a shelter from the... More

6. Climbing Onward

Once you reach this final section of the trail (comprising over half of the path's total distance) most of your company has been left behind, leaving only hikers headed for Le Conte's pinnacle. The first half mile or so beyond the bluffs is the single steepest portion of the hike, and included in this section is Gracie's Pulpit. Named for the... More

7. Fraser Fir Zone

Once the hiker reaches the 6,000-foot plateau, s/he enters into what once was a beautiful Fraser Fir zone, but, due to the ravages of the balsam wooly adelgid and acid rain, now is dominated with dead Frasers. A prolific crop of healthy young Fraser firs grows in the place of the old dead ones in many areas, giving hope for the future of the... More

8. Trail Flatens Out

Congrats you you made it past the hardest portion of the hike. Make your way now along the flat portion to Leconte Lodge

The LeConte Lodge provides the only commercial lodging in the national park, as it operates about 10 rustic cabins with no electricity or appliances. The Lodge also operates an office which provides t-shirts and other merchandise for hikers and various amenities for guests of the lodge. For many, this signals the end of their journey, but the... More

10. Junction to Cliff Tops

Turn here for Cliff Tops the BEST place to enjoy the sunset from Mt. Leconte.

11. Shelter

Be sure to put your gear up on the bear cables.

There is no cost to stay here but you must call the Backcountry Reservation Office at (865) 436-1231 to make reservations. The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily. You may make reservations up to one month in advance of the first day of your trip. (For example... More

12. Mt. Leconte Summit

There is no view here, only a pile of rocks to mark the summit. Beyond you will find a trail out to Myrtle Point the best place to watch the sun rise.