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Alum Cave

Intermediate/Difficult
 4.5 (6) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

For a bit of everything—geology, history, views—run up (and through!) the mountainside to the Alum Cave Bluffs.


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Map Key

4.6

Miles

7.4

KM

79%

Runnable

4,962' 1,512 m

High

3,858' 1,176 m

Low

1,104' 337 m

Up

1,104' 337 m

Down

9%

Avg Grade (5°)

23%

Max Grade (13°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · Geological Significance · Historical Significance · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

This 4.6 mile out-and-back route has a little bit of everything. The Alum Cave Trail crisscrosses Alum Cave Creek, passes under Arch Rock, and then clambers up the mountainside to the namesake Alum Cave Bluffs. Thick hardwood forest lines the path, but clearings—especially at Alum Cave itself—offer excellent views of the surrounding mountains.

Need to Know

This is a very popular trail! If visiting during peak hours/season, be prepared to encounter parking issues and crowds.

While you can run this route year-round, be cautious in the winter—the trail can get slick and icy, and massive icicles form on the underside of the bluff, and they fall from the ceiling without warning!

Description

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, follow Newfound Gap Road for 8.6 miles to the Alum Cave Trail, which is located on the east side of the road. It's prominent, well-signed, and difficult to miss, especially given this trail's popularity. There are two lots, one directly along the road and another tucked back, past the beginning of the trail. Know that parking does often fill up on busy days and at peak times!

Begin running up Alum Cave Trail. For around the initial 1.5 miles, the trail follows along Alum Cave Creek and then the Styx Branch, with the occasional log bridge crossing to the opposite side. At about 1.3 miles, the trail reaches Arch Rock where stone steps curve around beneath the stone. The steps can get quite slick when wet, so watch your step!

Soon after Arch Rock, the trail departs from the creek, ascending the mountainside. As with the earlier portions of the run, the trail winds beneath the dense canopies of old-growth forest, which, in the summer, is bursting with rhododendron blooms. Once the trail reaches the ridge, each glimpse from between the trees contains increasingly expansive views. Inspiration Point sits about 0.2 miles below Alum Cave and offers a vantage point for many nearby landmarks.

The final stretch gets rockier and steeper, with dropoffs to one side (watch out for little ones if you're running with kids!) accompanied a cable handrail for safety. In the final pitch, stone steps lead up, into Alum Cave which isn't much of a cave but rather a concave bluff or a stone arch set into the mountainside. Peer out from beneath the 80 foot stone ceiling, wander along its 500 foot length, and then head back the way you came (or, if you're feeling ambitious, continue along the trail to Cliff Top and Mount Le Conte).

History & Background

In the mid-1800s, the Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company mined epsom salts from the cave. Then, during the Civil War, the Confederate Army used the cave as a source of minerals used in gunpowder.

Contacts

Shared By:

Amber Scott

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 6 votes

#2131

Overall
  4.5 from 6 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#2,131

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91 Views Last Month
679 Since Mar 19, 2020
Intermediate/Difficult

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Photos

Stream in the Smoky Mtns.
Sep 3, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Beginning of the fall foliage at Ramsays cascades.
Feb 23, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Some portions of the Alum Cave Trail have stairs.
Apr 9, 2017 near Gatlinburg, TN
Beautiful stream near the beginning of the trail.
Jun 28, 2018 near Gatlinburg, TN
Log Bridge on Alum Cave Trail.
Dec 31, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Alum Cave Trail
Dec 31, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN

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