Mount Leconte is the second highest point in Tennessee and the highest point in TN that does not have a paved road to the top (looking at you Clingmans Dome
...). Leconte drawing tens of thousands of hikers each year, who generally pick one of the 6 main routes to one of the 3 major summits.
You really can't go wrong when picking a route or a summit destination on Leconte, but what if you picked all 6 routes and all 3 summits, would this make you more right?
The 6 main routes on Leconte are:
#1 Alum Cave Trail
#2 Boulevard Trail
(with a section of the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap)
#3 Rainbow Falls Trail
#4 Trillium Gap Trail
#5 Bull Head Trail
(with a section of Old Sugarlands Trail
#6 Brushy Mountain Trail
(with sections of Porters Creek Trail
and Trillium Gap Trail
At the bottom of this description, there are links for detailed descriptions of each of the 6 routes.
The 3 main summits of Leconte are:
#1 Mount Leconte 6,593'
#2 Cliff Top 6,555'
#3 Myrtle Point 6,443'
The run described below follows a route that minimizes mileage and total gain while linking all six routes and reaching all three summits.
While the run is intended to be continuous, it can be broken down into four somewhat equal sections for planning:
Section #1: Newfound Gap to Alum Cave
Trailhead (~14 miles/2,800' gain/3,900 loss)
Beginning at Newfound Gap (35.6111, -83.4250) head north on the Appalachian Trail 2.7 miles to Boulevard Trail
. Follow Boulevard Trail
5.1 miles to Myrtle Point Trail, run out and back to Mrytle Point. Continue on Boulevard Trail
another 0.25 miles to Cliff Top Trail. Follow Cliff Top Trail over Cliff Top then down to Rainbow Falls Trail
. Head down Rainbow Falls Trail
past lodge to Alum Cave Trail
. Head down Alum Cave
trail 5 miles to the trailhead on HWY 441 (35.6295, -83.4515). This completes Section #1 and at this point, you have complete 2 of the 6 routes and cross all 3 summits!
Section #2: Alum Cave
Trailhead to Rainbow Falls
Trailhead (~12 miles/2,700' gain/3,900' loss)
From the Alum Cave
Trailhead on HWY 441 head back up Alum Cave Trail
5 miles to Rainbow Falls Trail
. Turn left and head down Rainbow Falls Trail
0.5 miles to Bull Head Trail
. Head down Bull Head Trail
5.9 miles to Old Sugarlands Trail
, turn right and travel 0.5 miles to Rainbow Falls
Trailhead on Cherokee Orchard Road (35.6757, -83.4857). This completes Section #2 and at this point, you have complete 3 of the 6 routes and cross all summits!
Section #3: Rainbow Falls
Trailhead to Trillium Gap Trailhead (~13 miles/3,700'gain/3,100' loss)
From the Rainbow Falls
Trailhead on Cherokee Orchard Road head up Rainbow Falls Trail
6.5 miles to Trillium Gap Trail
. Head down Trillium Gap Trail
6.5 miles to the trailhead on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (35.6802, -83.4627). This completes Section #3 and at this point, you have complete 5 of the 6 routes and cross all summits!
Section #4: Trillium Gap Trailhead to Porter Creek Trailhead (~9 miles/1,400' gain/2,800' loss)
From Trillium Gap Trailhead on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail back up Trillium Gap Trail
2.9 miles to Brushy Mountain Trail
. Head down Brushy Mountain Trail
and Porters Creek Trail
5.5 miles to Porters Creek Trailhead on Greenbrier Road (35.6969, -83.3877). This completes Section #4, all 6 routes, 3 summits, and the RUN!!!
Detailed Route Descriptions:
Alum Cave Trail
Rainbow Falls Trail
Trillium Gap Trail
Bull Head Trail
Brushy Mountain Trail