Alum Cave Bluffs Trail to Mount LeConte

Categories: Hiking & Backpacking, Appalachian Trail, Fishing for Wild Trout, Great Smoky Mountains National Park... TN


  • One of the most popular and most difficult hikes in the GSMNP with over 2700 feet of elevation gain
  • Hike to the third highest peak in the Park at 6,593 feet
  • "Alum Cave" historical site and "Arch Rock" are just two of the highlights along the hike
  • Hike to the only lodge in the Park
  • Reservations for the "LeConte Lodge" are to be booked online and far in advance
  • Wide range of diverse views of the Park from the trail
  • Busy parking area but easy access off of Hwy-441
  • To reach the summit you must hike past the Lodge (see local scoop below)

From the Owner


The Local Scoop

The hike from Alum Cave Trailhead to Mount LeConte is one of the most popular hikes in the Park. We recommend taking on this 11 mile roundtrip hike up the third highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a number of reasons. This hike offers great views from different vantage points along the trail which helps break up the 5.5 mile hike up the mountain. There are also other landmarks you will want to stop at along the way or at least take your time at as you hike past them. The first is Arch Rock at just over 1 mile into your hike. At this point the hike has been fairly easy. As you make you way past Arch Rock you will climb and at approx. 2 miles into your hike you will have made it to Inspiration Point, a great place to take in some views of Myrtle Point on Mount LeConte and the Eye of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge. The Eye of the Needle is a noticable hole in the ridgeline that you can see sunlight through making for a unique view. After you take in the views here continue on to Alum Cave at just over 2 miles. Alum Cave is not the kind of cave that one might think of right off hand, but is more of a shallow version with a high opening at approx. 75 feet and a few hundred feet long. It is said that back during the Civil War the Confederate soldiers used to mine the "cave" for saltpeter which they used for gunpowder. Also the Epsom Salts manufacturing company had been established here. The local people used the salts to dye clothing a reddish color. The remaining portion of the trial is fairly rocky and you ill have cable "holds" along some of the ledges the trail takes you on. Be careful in these areas due to the drop offs on the opposite sides of the "holds." The Alum Cave Trail is considered to be strenuous but we recommend it to all able bodied hikers with some experience and with the proper shoes/clothing. Be aware of the weather, time of year you are hiking and that at almost 6,600 feet the temperature is much cooler than at the trailhead. Dress appropriately and in layers. The lodge at the summit now offers dayhikers a lunch option but it is required that you order it two days in advance. This is a very busy trail and you will see other hikers with the exception of hiking in the Winter months. We would also like to suggesst that once you reach the Lodge that you seek out Myrtle's Point and the actual summit. Myrtle's Point is our favorite view and in our opinion the best view from Mt. LeConte. To get there you will need to hike an extra 0.4 miles by continuing on the main trail. This is the Boulevard Trail now. At 0.2 mile you'll need to find a right fork off the main trail, and hike another 0.2 mile to Myrtle's Point for 360 degree views. To get to the actual summit (no views) also known as "High Top", you'll need to hike an extra 0.5 mile past the Lodge. You will know you have made it if you see a large pile of rocks marking the hightest point. Allow for approx. 8-9 hours for the roundtrip.

The Local Directions

From Cherokee, NC take U.S. Hwy-441 North into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue on the curvy yet scenic hwy for 23.5 miles to the medium-size but usually crowded parking area on the Right.

From Gatlinburg, TN take U.S. Hwy-441/TN Hwy-71 South towards Great Smoky Mountain National Park and North Carolina for 11.3 miles to parking for the trailhead on your left.

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Difficulty Levels

  • Hike12What's this?
U.S. Hwy-441 Trailhead:  35.628868,-83.450899
Summit:  35.65426, -83.43683
Hike Distance
11 miles roundtrip
Easy via U.S. Hwy-441
Nearest City
Gatlinburg, TN
Sevier County, TN
Distance From
Gatlinburg, TN, 11.3 miles
Cherokee, NC, 23.5 miles