Alum Cave Bluffs to Mt. LeConte
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Difficulty
hike difficulty
20.2
Length
hike difficulty
10.5
Duration 4 - 6 hours
Elevation Gain 2900 ft.
State Tennessee
Park/Forest Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Parking Fee None
Blaze None
Nearby City Gatlinburg, TN
Trailhead Coord. 35.629117, -83.450968

Often referred to as the best day hike in the Smokies, the Alum Cave Trail does not disappoint. With great views and distinctive features, this is also one of the most popular trails in the area. And with the option to turn around at Alum Cave Bluffs at 2.4 miles, this trail is versitile enough for families and those up for a longer adventure.



The trail begins on Newfound Gap road, a few miles west of Newfound Gap and Clingman's Dome road. From the parking area, the trail starts off realatively easy, crossing two bridges over the Walker Camp prong and the Alum Cave creek, then continuing along the latter. Afer a series of footbridges, the path switches to follow the Styx branch. At 1.4 miles, the trail climbs up a rock staircase passing through the Arch rock. These steps are steep and slippery and should be climbed with caution using the railing. This can be a bottleneck for thru traffic.



From Arch Rock to Alum Cave Bluffs, the path becomes gradually steeper. The trail crosses a couple more footbridges before leaving Styx branch. Shortly before reaching Alum Cave Bluffs, the trail makes a 90 degree turn North. This is a good spot to stop and soak in the view. While technically it is referred to as a rock shelter, Alum Cave Bluff is definitely not a cave. The giant rock outcropping can accomodate several hundred people and is a great place to stop for a rest, especially if it is raining.



This point is roughly half way to the top of Mt. LeConte. The next 2.8 miles to the Lodge is the most difficult section of the trail. Along the way, there are numerous sections of exposed rock ledges that only afford several feet of room to pass. Many of these have water running down the sides of the rock, making it slippery even when not raining. Most of these have a steel wire handrail for safety. Before reaching the lodge, the trail flattens out and joins with the Rainbow Falls trail. The lodge is about a tenth of a mile past this point. Stop by the office to look around or purchase Mt. LeConte t-shirts and other merchandise.



Continue past the lodge for another half mile. This section become the Boulevard Trail. Along the right will be the Mt. LeConte shelter, which you need a permit to stay the night. After a distance, lying humbly off to the right of the trail is a rock cairn to mark the top of Mt. LeConte. Make sure to add your own rock to the pile.



The only thing left to do now is head back down the way you came. Caution is even more important while descending. Again, be careful around the exposed rock ledges and the running water along the path.

IMAGES & VIDEO
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TERRAIN MAP
Green MarkerTrailhead   Blue MarkerPoint of Interest   Yellow MarkerDirections

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ELEVATION PROFILE
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3500
GETTING THERE
Trailhead Coordinates
35.629117, -83.450968 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°37.75, W 83°27.06 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°37'45'', W 83°27'03'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)

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Most auto GPS units use the Degree Minutes format as the default.



Further Directions
From North Carolina, the trailhead is on the right 4.3 miles past the Newfound Gap overlook. From Tennessee, the trailhead is on the left 1.4 miles after the loop-de-loop.

ADDITIONAL INFO

Ranger District Information
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
865-436-1200



Cautions & Warnings
Use the cable handrails. Even when not raining, many rock are still very slick.



Other Information
For information on LeConte Lodge or for reservations, call 865-429-5704.
The lodge generally fills up a year in advance, so book early.