This black and white photograph features long shadows along a trail on Mount LeConte. In the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, it’s the tallest mountain located entirely within the state. Prints are available.
The tallest mountain located entirely within the state of Tennessee – near Gatlinburg – Mount LeConte stands an impressive 6593-feet above sea level and provides hikers with stunning panoramic scenery of the Smoky Mountains.
Clingmans Dome (at 6664-feet, the tallest peak in the Smoky Mountains National Park) and Mount Guyot (6621-feet) each have higher elevations, though both occupy boundaries within Tennessee and North Carolina.
There are five trails to the summit of Mount LeConte. This hike – my second – began at the Alum Cave Trailhead, located approx. 8 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, along Newfound Gap Road. During the initial 1.5 miles, the trail parallels two creeks – Alum Cave Creek & Styx Branch – providing visitors with pleasant background sounds of running water.
Shout Out: I enjoyed conversation at Myrtle Point with two visitors from Maryland (Kathy) & Virginia (Gayle), and hiking back down the mountain with a nice woman – Shawnie – from Dayton, TN. Nice to meet you!
One can expect to meet many people along the trail – it’s a popular place to hike, with most folks opting to walk 1/2 the distance, stopping at Alum Cave Bluffs (an area originally mined for deposits of magnesium sulfate & alum in 1838, by the Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company).
Other landmarks include Arch Rock (a long stairway which winds through the mountainside), Inspiration Point, and the Eye of The Needle. This area is also home to Peregrine Falcons – the fastest bird in the world, with a top recorded speed (during descent) of 242 miles per hour. And, the trail is equipped with several different steel cables, affixed to the mountainside for safety.
Hikers are greeted at the top of the mountain with a series of buildings – LeConte Lodge, cabins, gift shop, fresh water pump & an outhouse.
LeConte Lodge operates via a seasonal airlift of supplies by helicopter in March, restocking throughout the season using alternating teams of pack llamas for several days each week. Cabin availability is limited and reservations should be made one year in advance.
Located a short 0.2 miles away from LeConte Lodge, Cliff Tops is one of two primary overlooks enjoyed by visiting hikers. It’s a great place to relax with a snack and take in the view!
My next destination was the eastern most edge on top of Mount LeConte; also known as Myrtle Point. Here are a few photographs taken en route…
This is my favorite of the two overlooks. It has a more expansive, panoramic view, and much flatter rock surfaces for comfortable seating. Mountain views include Mount Kephart, Newfound Gap, Charlies Bunion and Clingmans Dome.
Including visits to/from the Cliff Tops & Myrtle Point overlooks, I tallied over 12 miles on the hike along the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte. It’s the shortest route, but, being the steepest trail, a strenuous endeavor. My advice is to be well-rested, bring appropriate clothing but travel as lightly as practical, take a break if fatigued, stay hydrated, use trekking poles when possible, and watch your step. Oh, and take pictures!
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Located in the Tremont section of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the Middle Prong Trail to Indian Flats Falls is 8.2 miles out and back.
Driving 3 miles beyond the Tremont Institute, which features a small gift shop and restroom, the gravel road dead ends at a parking area by the trailhead. Crossing a footbridge over the river, the trail forks to the left and parallels Lynn Camp Prong.
Hikers will enjoy the sound of running water over the course of a 1140-foot elevation gain en route to Indian Flats Falls. At approx. 1/2 mile, the impressive 35-foot tall Lynn Camp Falls can be viewed from the trail.
The Middle Prong Trail was originally a railroad bed used by the Little River Railroad & Lumber Company, based in Townsend, Tennessee, which was one of the largest commercial logging operations in southern Appalachia, operating for 38 years until 1939, with 150 miles of railroad. Visitors can find more information available at the Little River Railroad Museum.
Along the way, hikers will observe vestiges from that era, including limited glimpses of railroad tracks and other steel remnants, a toppled chimney and an abandoned 1920’s Cadillac taxi. Other encounters may include horses – equestrians allowed, so watch your step – and bears, common to the area.
Over the course of the trail, hikers should expect an increase in grade and quantity of scattered small-to-medium sized rocks. There are two bridges to cross, as well as two small creek beds, easily traversed by stepping on rocks to keep dry.
After hiking 4 miles up a mountainside, one might expect to see a sign pointing to Indian Flats Falls. Alas, there are no signs. Instead, following several turns and an increase in elevation, the path broadens substantially at a switchback. Rather than continuing left, hikers will see a path to the right, tucked behind a large bush near a rock face. Turning right is a short, moderately difficult path over some rocks and under a few downed trees – then, the falls!
Emerging from the path, visitors are greeted with a wonderful view of the 20-foot tall top section of Indian Flats Falls. There is plenty of room for several people to gather, though hikers should remain weary of slippery conditions on what would otherwise appear as flat rock surfaces.
This waterfall actually has four-tiers, for a total height of 60-feet, though access to these lower areas isn’t easy, requiring one to get dirty foraging through the brush, descending shallow rock ledges, and wading knee-deep through a plunge pool at the base.
If you’re prepared to sustain a few scratches and get muddy, the views are definitely worth the effort.
Fine quality prints are available in my gallery at Fine Art America.
The following photography presents Indian Flats Falls, top-down:
If you enjoy the great outdoors, then I’d highly recommend the hike to Indian Flats Falls. And, plan to spend more time than you might otherwise expect, as you’ll often find yourself stopping to enjoy scenery along the river.
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Located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee near Gatlinburg, the trail to Rainbow Falls (80 feet) ascends the northern slopes of Mount LeConte (6,593 feet). Despite being rated as a difficult hike, the 2.75 mile trail to the falls is heavily trafficked with a constant incline over sometimes rugged terrain. With many switchbacks, it has an elevation gain of 1,653 feet and is one of six separate routes up the mountain. During warm weather, hikers should consider arriving early to secure a parking space, as the lot fills quickly.
If hiking during winter months, come prepared with proper clothing – the falls are above the frost line and temperatures can be quite cold. Here’s a photograph from my hike in March, 2019:
Fortunately, the weather was wonderful during my recent visit, as evident in the following scenes…
Interested in a print for your home or office? If so, then visit my shop at Pixels to select from a variety of available print types, including: framed, canvas, art, metal, acrylic and wood. Other items, also.
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Here’s a video of Rainbow Falls…
This orange-colored photograph of the Smoky Mountains was taken while hiking up the trail to Mount LeConte, located outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. See more.
Driving along route US-441 S from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, there are several parking areas which provide scenic views of the pinnacles.
One such location has an information-placard posted, which reads:
The Cherokees called the mountain Duniskwalguni, meaning ‘forked antlers’.
The half-billion-year-old Chimney Tops, made of slates, schists, and phyllites, sit atop even older rock – Thunderhead sandstone, a tough, erosion resistant rock. The chimney rock (Anakeesta Formation) is softer than the sandstone, allowing rain, hail, and ice – over hundreds of millions of years – to fashion its chimney-shaped likeness.
The rugged Chimney Tops pierce the forest that cloaks most of the Great Smoky Mountain ridges. The bare rock offers scant soil for plants. Only shallow-rooted shrubs and trees like rhododendron, mountain laurel, red spruce, and eastern hemlock thrive here.
One of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Chimney Tops trail gains 1400 feet over 2 miles – a steep climb! So, wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.
With only one seating area along the trail, I would recommend that hikers carry a walking-stick or trekking-poles, either of which makes resting easier by supporting ones’ weight, when necessary.
The trail crosses rushing streams on three occasions, prior to ascending the side of the mountain. Though principally hard-packed dirt with light gravel, both stone & wooden steps located periodically along the trail serve to facilitate an easier hiking-experience.
On my visit, I arrived early and was the third car parked and the second hiker to reach the top. Pictured below is a wood & dirt structure where visitors may rest and enjoy a wonderful view of the Smokies.
The best place to see the Chimney Tops, however, is located to the left, another 50 feet along the trail. Here, looking towards the northwest, the bright morning sun highlighted the front-face of the pinnacles for stunning views! For hikers continuing beyond this point, be careful – a narrow trail, fallen trees, slippery rocks and substantial height along this steep mountain entails cautious deliberation.
At 18-seconds, you’ll see a circular gap within the trees along the ridge (right side); this is the observation area – see black and white photograph, above.
Several of these photographs are available in my galleries at Pixels and/or Fine Art America, and more will be added in the days ahead – so, stop by for a visit! Enjoy selecting your choice of framed, canvas, art, metal, acrylic and/or wood prints. Tapestries & other items, too.
For a better sense of height from the pinnacles, here are two photographs highlighting the scenic view parking areas (see photograph at beginning), the later with zoom magnification:
I recently hiked to Ramsey Cascades, located in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, not far from Gatlinburg. It was a pleasant day, and I met several interesting people along the trail.
Note: the roads to the trailhead – both Greenbier Road and, especially, Ramsey Prong Road – are in poor condition. Visitors should drive very slowly along these four miles, weaving to avoid deep potholes in the gravel roadway. If you, the reader, work for the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park system, then please – FIX THE ROADS! Thank you.
The four mile trail to Ramsey Cascades is strenuous, rated as difficult. Hikers will encounter a nearly 2200′ increase in elevation en route to the 100′ waterfall – the tallest in the park! – while enjoying sounds of running water, as the trail follows rushing rivers and streams for much of its length. And, it’s easy to appreciate a continuous canopy of trees to keep cool on a hot, sunny day.
You’ll see a few signs along the way –
And, cross a few bridges –
You’ll also pass through the largest old-growth forest in the Smokies, with some trees topping 150′ –
Footnote: I had the pleasure of interacting on several occasions with three nice women throughout the course of my hike, who shared an interesting story. While resting at the large tree (see above), they joined and informed me that they had observed two copperhead rattle snakes – I saw their iPhone pictures! – in the middle of the trail. What does this mean? Apparently, because I was only a short distance further along the trail, I must have walked right by the snakes without even noticing them. D’oh!
Speaking of the trail, you’d better wear good shoes –
Photographs of Ramsey Cascades
Guests may visit my shop to select from a variety of print types – framed, canvas, art, metal, wood and acrylic. Several customization options are also available to make it your own!
Video of Ramsey Cascades –
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This frost-covered mountain was photographed during a recent hike to Rainbow Falls on Mount Le Conte, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Despite it being Spring, and with Knoxville (1.5 hours away) temperatures forecast in the mid-50’s, higher elevations in the mountains remained freezing. My advice to hikers during this time of year is to pack extra clothes…and bring a pair of gloves!
At the 2.7 mile marker, this short video features the 80′ waterfalls –
Enjoy the great outdoors!