Fitness, Food and Photography

Follow me on my road to fitness… Because it's all about the journey, not the destination.

Hike: Alum Cave Trail to Mt. Leconte

on July 20, 2012

Distance:  11 miles (roundtrip)

Elevation:  6,593 (highest point)

Difficulty:  moderate to strenuous

Time:  Allow at least 4-5 hours

To find the trailhead, drive 8.7 miles past the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road.  The parking lot will be on the left.  (Only about a 45 minute drive from Knoxville).

alum cave trail to mt leconte

alum cave trail to mt leconte

After we biked 11 miles at Cades Cove on Saturday, we thought hiking 11 miles was a great way to round out the day.  LOL

After all, the theme of the weekend was to do things we couldn’t do with kids around.  And we certainly can’t hike to the top of the mountain with a 7-year old and a 2-year old.  (The 2-year old is too heavy to carry and the 7-year old would just whine about his legs hurting the whole way).

hazy day at newfound gap

This was the view from Newfound Gap.  The clouds and fog were so thick you could barely see the mountains.  This was how the hike started.  We were afraid we might get rained on, but we didn’t completely care.

waterfall smoky mountains

So much to see — waterfalls, bridges, rocks, views – this trail has it all.

bridge smoky mountains

About a mile into the trail, you reach Arch Rock.  The stairs have been cut so you can walk through.

arch rock smoky mountains

alum cave smoky mountains

Then, 2.2 miles into the trail, you come to Alum Cave.  I wouldn’t really call this a cave, more like a really big rock.  But whatever.

overlook view alum cave trail smoky mountains

A lot of people turn around at Alum Cave.  Roundtrip for that hike would be 4.4 miles.  Decent hike.  But in my opinion, why would you want to stop now when you haven’t even seen the top of the mountain??

alum cave trail to mt leconte

Of course, the next 2.8 miles do start to get strenuous.  Take water with you!

stairs smoky mountains

alum cave trail to mt leconte

overlook smoky mountains

And we’re not even to the top yet.  The clouds are starting to break up.  I’m getting excited.

top of mt leconte, leconte lodge

And here we are at the top.  It’s actually clear!!  Every time I’ve ever stayed at the Leconte Lodge overnight, it was so foggy you couldn’t see anything.  But today- today it was perfect!

leconte lodge

Such a great hike!!  I highly recommend it.  We were kinda booking it to the top, not because we wanted it over with, we just wanted to keep our heart rate up.  It took 2.5 hours to climb the mountain.  We spent about 45 minutes on the top snapping pictures and eating our lunch.  The descent took only 1.5 hours.  Much easier getting down a mountain than getting up it!!

Here are a few more pictures from the hike:

butterfly smoky mountains

purple flowers smoky mountains

rhododendron smoky mountains


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