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.
Definitely the most unappetizing photo of the traditional egg sammich I've ever taken.. but it has to be posted.
It was a perfect day.. perfect.
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. 😉
Ooh, a bridge leading into.. a cave? Oh, not a cave..
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.
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.
The clouds below us rested in the valleys like whipped cream.
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.
Did you know: Epsom Salts once ran a mining operation at Alum Cave?
When you reach the cave, you'll be less than 3 miles to the top!
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!
Just uh.. don't pick this particular area to slip and fall. Cause you will die.
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.
A night at the Lodge includes a cabin equipped with kerosene lanterns and propane heaters, and meals in the famous LeConte Lodge dining room.
Our usual trail lunch, of course.
Notice the wires across the window of the cabin. Bears are rampant in this area!
A short hike beyond the Lodge will bring you to Cliff Top, where you can experience some really incredible views.
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.