Hike to Mt. LeConte!

The Trail: Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
The Distance: 10 miles roundtrip
The Climb: 2,763 feet

A few weeks ago we tackled the big boy and clomped our way to Mt. LeConte!  There are several ways to get up there, but we chose the Alum Cave Bluff trail – the shortest, and steepest route.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Definitely the most unappetizing photo of the traditional egg sammich I’ve ever taken.. but it has to be posted.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
It was a perfect day.. perfect.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
The colors weren’t showing, but there were lots of dying leaves scattered on the trail that gave us a hint of what was to come!  If I look a little forlorn.. I had been fighting a cold the week before the hike, but felt okay enough to give it a go anyway.  A little snot never hurt anyone.  ;-)

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Ooh, a bridge leading into.. a cave?  Oh, not a cave..

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
A really friggin awesome staircase under a landmark known as Arch Rock.  The rock was formed by repeated freezing and thawing that ate away at the softer stone.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
We were a little concerned about the views when we first started, as it was a very cloudy day.  Once we got above the clouds, however, it was crystal clear.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
The clouds below us rested in the valleys like whipped cream.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Alum Cave isn’t a cave at all, but a hulking bluff 80ft high and 500ft long.  The ground is loose and the last bit of the trail up to the bluff is a slow and cautious walk, as there is no real sure footing.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Did you know: Epsom Salts once ran a mining operation at Alum Cave?

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
When you reach the cave, you’ll be less than 3 miles to the top!

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
A good bit of the trail to the summit is cabled, as many parts of the path are little more than slick rock.  It’s not a dangerous trail at all and can be easily traversed without the cables, but when you’re tired (and you will be), they help!

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Just uh.. don’t pick this particular area to slip and fall.  Cause you will die.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Almost there!!

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
It is so strange to slodge up such a long and difficult trail and find.. houses.. at the top.  The LeConte Lodge offers lodging for hikers wishing to spend a night near the top of the Smokies.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
A night at the Lodge includes a cabin equipped with kerosene lanterns and propane heaters, and meals in the famous LeConte Lodge dining room.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Our usual trail lunch, of course.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
Notice the wires across the window of the cabin.  Bears are rampant in this area!

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
A short hike beyond the Lodge will bring you to Cliff Top, where you can experience some really incredible views.

Hike to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
The friendly, elderly rolling peaks of the Smoky Mountains with a rhododendron foreground.  It doesn’t get more classic than this.

The trail was surprisingly full of people, all the way to the top.  I was especially impressed by a group of 60+ friends who were making the climb for one hiker’s 63rd birthday.  He always said he would make it to the top of LeConte before he turned 70, and had vowed to do it every year following until he could no longer make the trek.

About Erin

Erin Browne and her husband Matt are the people behind the curtain here at Brownie Bites. Together, they blog about recipes they love, places they go, and things that they do. There are also cute dog pictures. Lots and lots of them. You can follow Erin on twitter @erinbrowne.
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Comments

  1. Yay for LeConte! Always, always, always worth the hike. 
    Now we just have to talk about the possibility of staying up there sometime. You know…when we feel like dropping $120 per person. Bleh! But definitely worth staying at least once…for the experience. Outhouses, no electricity….all that fun stuff :D

  2. I’ve been going to your Smoky Mountain section of the blog almost EVERYDAY to get excited for my upcoming trip. My boyfriend, Matt (how ironic) and I will be attempting Leconte in mid-October. I find your pictures to be very pleasing to look forward to! We are both photographers ourselves so hopefully we’ll get some fall color as well. I was planning on going up Rainbow Falls and down Bullhead trail, then I’ve been reading about Alum Bluff to and from Leconte summit and it seems like there is more interesting features this route, but we really like enjoying the solitude of our hikes (without heavy crowds), was it VERY heavy when you guys went up this particular route? Do you have any suggestions or recommendations up to Leconte summit? Looking forward to hearing from you!

    • Hey Steph, I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed the hike posts!  I’m also SO SORRY it has taken me like, forever to respond to your comment. I don’t know how I missed it when you first posted it!  I’m sure your hike has come and gone, but to answer your question about crowds during this particular hike, they weren’t bad at all!  Most beginner hikers stop at Alum Bluff, so past that point there really weren’t very many people at all.

      • Haha yeah it has come and gone. One of my favorite experiences thus far. We hiked the Alum Bluff trail up to the lodge. Left at sunrise, not many people that early. As we were coming back down, the bluff itself was heavily crowded. Starting early is key. Hehe! We will be up there again in mid-October, trying to figure out some different panoramic hikes that will make our jaws drop like Leconte did last year. We haven’t been up to the bunion yet, so that’s definitely on our to-hike list. 

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