In order to reach Mt. LeConte, visitors can expect to run ~5.5 miles (one way) with over 2,700 feet in elevation gain. Proper footwear is recommended as, although the trail is fairly well made, certain sections can become icy and slippery depending on weather and time of the year. Luckily, recent trail restorations have made the trail a bit wider and easier to travel. The trail is fairly gradual with minimal steep sections, although proper footwear is recommended.
The trail has been restored very recently so the path is packed down and in decent shape; however, certain sections may get icy depending on what time of the year you run.
Alum Cave Trail
starts out fairly easy and gradual, running parallel to Alum Cave
Creek for about a mile. It then switches on to Styx Branch, eventually leading to Arch Rock
. Arch Rock
was formed by the freezing and thawing of water, causing the softer rock under the arch to be eroded away. Make your way across the bridge and up the steps that go through the arch.
Continue on the trail for less than a mile, and you'll reach inspiration point, which boasts amazing views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge to the west, and Myrtle Point on Mt. LeConte towards the northeast. On a nice day, you may be able to see The Eye of the Needle, a hole atop Little Duck Hawk Ridge.
Continue on the trail until about 2.2 miles from the trailhead, and you'll encounter Alum Cave
, for which the trail is named. Alum Cave
is actually not a cave, but a bluff named after the the Alum deposits found on the walls of the "cave." The ground here can be fairly loose and slippery, especially during periods of rain. Also, be cautious of falling icicles from the top of the bluff.
Follow along the walls of the bluff and follow the sign to continue on the trail. At approximately 2.6 miles, you'll reach Gracie's Pulpit, which marks the halfway point of the trail.
Continuing on, you'll pass through ledges with cable hand holds. Certain parts have small waterfalls that can become icy and slippery during colder seasons so be careful on the ledges! The last ledge passes just under Cliff Top, and the trail ends at Rainbow Falls Trail
For the best views of the Smokies from the lodge, check out Myrtle Point and Cliff Top. Myrtle Point offers nearly 360-degree views, and Cliff Top offers the best views of the sunset.
The first mile or so leading up to Arch Rock
passes through a large number of rhododendron. One may or may not encounter black bears at the top around LeConte Lodge, and peregrine falcons may also be spotted from Inspiration Point and other viewpoints along the trail.