This is not a secret hike, start early and you might beat the crowds on your way back down.
About The Mountain
The Alum Cave Trail up Mount LeConte is one of the most popular hikes in the Smokies but is still a solid hike that's worth completing. At 6,593 feet Mount LeConte is the third highest mountain in the national park and is the highest mountain that is completely within Tennessee. North Carolina and Tennessee split the Smokies down the middle and run along a ridgeline which includes the first and second highest being Clingmans Dome and Mount Guyot respectively.
One of the most fascinating features of the mountain is LeConte Lodge which rests on top just below the peak at an elevation of 6,360 feet. This makes the lodging the highest elevation lodging in the eastern states. The original lodging was constructed in 1926 and served to entertain officials from Washington D.C. in hopes of a creation of a national park which ultimately happened in 1934. The lodging has expanded since and you can now stay in one of the many different sized cabins offered. Link below to their website.
About The Hike
The hike to the summit is an out & back style hike that clocks in a bit shy of 11 miles round trip. The elevation gain for this is 2,919 feet with the bulk of the elevation coming after Alum Cave. On the hike up you can expect the first mile to be mostly gentle which follows a picturesque Tennessee Smoky Mountain stream. At this point, you will get to and go through Arch Rock and get into some increasing elevation as you head uphill and away from the stream.
Not too far after Arch Rock will be the first breakthrough of the trees with a nice vantage point to take in and appreciate your newly climbed elevation. Soon after you will arrive at Alum Cave which feels less like a cave and more like a gigantic overhanging cliff. This will probably be the most crowded spot on the trail because many hikers will only hike to here and not continue on to the summit. If it's uncrowded when you're here be sure to snap a pic because the way down is sure to be different if done during the day.
The summit is slightly over 3 miles from the cave which will have increased elevation but also some nice sections of cliff-hugging trails surrounded by mountain forest. Since the trail sees a lot of visitation daily the climb is well built with stairs and steps and free of rock scrambles and other high-intensity inclines.
Once you've reached LeConte Lodge be sure to check out the area and then continue on towards the ridgeline top where the views are. I believe it is called Myrtle Point where the best views (see the first photo of this post) and the rock vistas are which are about .2 miles from the lodge. The High Top point is the opposite way along the ridge with obstructed views but is the true summit of Mount LeConte.
Getting There and Important Information
The trailhead is on Newfound Gap Road and as mentioned several times already this trail is wildly popular. Being close to the town (amusement park?) of Gatlinburg and the mountain which towers over the town, it is widely known about and desired to climb. Because Gatlinburg is a heavy tourist town this makes hiking midweek mostly obsolete if the goal was to avoid crowds. My best advice is to hike as early as possible which will at least then make the climb up feel secluded.
©Copyright 2020 Dan Oliver
Photography exclusively by Dan Oliver unless otherwise stated and cited. Embedded maps are provided by Embed Google Map (embedgooglemap.net) and map images shown are provided as stated and cited.
This website is provided for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to serve as an instructional guide, or present itself as an authority for any of the locations written about. The locations mentioned, written, and photographed herein are nothing more than my personal adventure archive. If you are interested in visiting any locations you should not depend on the information in this website to plan any excursions. You should research a wide variety of informational sources, websites, hiking guide books and maps found elsewhere. Many locations are dangerous and potentially illegal to access which can lead to fines, injury or death even when prepared. I do not encourage anyone to trespass or put themselves or others in way of harm. This website, and therefore its’ owner/author, cannot assume any responsibility for anything you may incur while hiking or exploring any of these locations or anywhere on planet earth. Thank you for viewing!