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!
Thanks for stopping by!