This past weekend we hiked Mount Le Conte. This wasn’t our intention, we planned to just do the quick 2.3 miles up to Alum Cave and back! Once we reached the cave (which is really a large bluff) we decided to keep going up to Mount Le Conte. The sign said 2.7 miles to Mount Le Conte, so we were already halfway there (almost).
Alum Cave Trail
The trail up to Alum Cave is about 2.3 miles long and the first mile follows Alum Cave Creek before becoming a little steeper. This first section of the hike is gentle and the creek is beautiful. At the end of this first section is Arch Rock. I think this is a pretty awesome feature of this trail, with a set of stairs carved into the stone to take you through it.
The trail then starts to climb up towards Alum Cave. Cables are provided on the rocky cliff sections for aid. These were much needed when we hiked this trail one winter. It was very icy and we actually had to watch out for falling icicles at the bluff! So if you go here when it’s cold, use caution. Once you reach Alum Cave after around 2.3 miles, you’ll have spectacular views of the mountains. Check out the two photos below from February 2018, it was so cold!
TIP: Alum Cave Trail is a very popular destination. You’ll want to arrive early on nice weekends or during busier seasons to ensure you find a parking spot. On nice days, be prepared for it to feel like a bus dropped off a load of people at the bluffs. This will not ruin your hike, but it was surprising for us to come back down from Mount Le Conte and pass such a large crowd at Alum Cave.
Beyond Alum Cave
After we sat and snacked at Alum Cave, we decided to keep going to Mount Le Conte. This section of trail was not as easy as the past 2 miles… but I’m so glad we went for it! You’ll come across several rock ledges that made me dizzy, but the views of this trail are worth it, hang on to the cable handrails! We also had a great glute workout from this trail. Sore for days!
Eventually it flattens out a little bit and goes through a forest, it was a beautiful, calm section, much appreciated after the rough miles we had. You’ll take a right to merge onto the Rainbow Falls Trail and continue up towards the summit. At the lodge area, we took a right towards Cliff Top. This offered a beautiful panoramic view and was a great stopping point to relax for a few minutes before heading back down the mountain. Based on a map, the actual summit was maybe half a mile past the trail to Cliff Top, but we turned around after the Cliff Top. After reading some articles, I think we made a good decision as Cliff Top offers one of the most outstanding vistas.
My GSMNP Hiking Goals
A couple of months ago, I set a goal to hike the Great Smoky Mountains National Park within 1 year! I am using the list here, minus the 3 long distance hikes. Which means I have a lot of hiking to do before June 2020! This is an initiative to get me off the couch and lead a healthier, more active lifestyle. The website I linked to is a great resource, as the creators of it actually hiked the trails themselves. I am super excited about this goal because I love seeing God’s creation in these mountains, they are full of beauty!
Until next time,