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Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluff

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

based on 13 reviews



10.68 miles

Elevation Gain

3982 ft

Route Type



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 to 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).

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We did this hike December 17 and there was SO much ice on the trail. It was around 35 degrees at the bottom of the hike and it quickly dropped upon the descent. However, it was SO WORTH IT

We hiked from snow to sunshine to ice. Incredible. The Smokies can save you if you let them.

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

Waterfalls, shelter caves, chains to climb bluffs, and sweeping mountain top views.

A great trail with a lot of diversity! Lots of elevation gain but totally worth the effort

This is perhaps my favorite hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. There is something for everyone from waterfalls, to spectacular views. I would highly recommend you do this hike early or late-afternoon as it is popular and can become overcrowded during the day. Also be sure to pack plenty of snacks, sunscreen and wear proper footwear. This is not a hike for the faint of heart, but a good challenge!

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.

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!

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.

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!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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