Alum Cave Bluffs
The most popular route to Mount LeConte
The trail begins at the Grassy patch off the parking area, you then cross the Walker Camp Prong and then the Alum Cave Creek on foot bridges. For the next mile or so the trail parallels the Alum Cave Creek through an old-growth forest. The creek is prone to flash floods during heavy rain, this tends to keep the moss from the rocks in the creek. Other evidence of flooding can be seen along the trail, such os logs and boulders. After a little more than a mile the trail starts to follow the Styx Branch which is a tributary of Alum Cave Creek. You will cross this branch 3 times before coming to Arch Rock at 1.4 miles. The stone stairs at Arch Rock allows passage through one of the few natural aches in the Great Smoky Mountains. The arch is thought by many to be one of the most interesting geological features of the park. After Arch Rock you will cross Styx Branch one more time on the way to Inspiration Point at 1.8 miles. Inspiration Point is a good panoramic view on the trail and well worth getting the cameras out. At 2.3 miles (halfway on this round trip hike) you come to Alum Cave Bluffs. Alum Cave is not an actual cave, but it's an overhanging rock ledge. The name comes from the mineral deposits coming from the bluff, some very rarely occurring naturally. The Bluffs are the turn around point for this hike, returning on the same path you hiked in on.
The trail to Alum Cave Bluff and Mt. LeConte is one of the most rewarding and popular day hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trailhead begins at two large parking lots on Newfound Gap Road. Alum Cave Bluff is a 4.5 mile round trip and a 10 mile round trip from Newfound Gap Road to the summit of Mt. LeConte. The trail starts at roughly 3,800 ft. and steadily increases it elevation to over 6,000 ft. Conditions on the summit of Mt. LeConte can be very different than at the base of the trail so make sure you bring warm clothes and always carry raingear. Crampons maybe necessary even in spring due to icy conditions near the summit. Check conditions at the visitor center before you go. The first part of the trail follows Alum Cave Creek and is particularly pretty during June and July when Rosebay, and Catawba rhododendron or in full bloom. Arch Rock is the next highlight of this trail which leads straight through this natural stone arch. After ascending though a heath bald you reach the gigantic rock overhang known as Alum Cave Bluff. Look for Peregrine falcons flying around the bluff where they nest. Most sight seers turn around at this point, but some of the best sights in the park are further up the trail. The second half of the trail to the Summit of Mt. LeConte offer spectacular views, the remains of a landslide, and a section bare rock trail surface on the edge of a cliff wall near the summit. Parents need to keep an eye on any children and make sure you hold on to the steel cable handrails that are bolted to the cliff face. This section of the trail can be treacherous during cold weather. Mt. LeConte Lodge sits atop the summit of the mountain and makes a great place to eat the lunch you packed or have a meal prepared by the lodge cook (call ahead) and pick up a shirt proclaiming â€œI climbed Mt. LeConteâ€. The Lodge is a great place to learn about the history of the park and its only lodge. If you are looking to escape the heat of the summer the summit of Mt. LeConte never has recorded tempters breaking 80 degrees. The short walk to the Cliff Top overlook provides a great view from the second tallest mountain in the park.