Hiking to the summit of Mount LeConte is a task on the bucket list of many. The extraordinary Gatlinburg massif towers at 6,593 feet at it's highest point, making it the fourth highest peak on the east coast and third highest in the Smokies. There are 6 different ways to reach the top.
Mount LeConte Trails
If you're planning on hiking to the top for the first time, odds are that you've already chosen Alum Cave Trail as your route. The 5 mile stretch is the shortest trail and probably the best choice for a newcomer. However, there are pros and cons to each of the 6 routes. If you're up for a little more mileage, there are options that might be a bit easier on the knees.Trails to LeConte
Mount LeConte Weather
What's the temperature like at the top of Mount LeConte? A general rule of thumb is that the summit of the mountain is about 13 degrees cooler (usually a bit more) than the temperature in Gatlinburg. However, news stations and internet searches will give you temperatures for both locations. It is generally significantly windier at the highest parts of the mountain, so it's smart to always pack an extra layer for lunchtime at the lodge, Cliff Tops, or Myrtle Point.
Pro Tip: On a LeConte hike I completed in June of 2022, I was dressed for summer in East Tennessee and didn't bring a jacket to the top. Upon our arrival the lodge was immersed in a cloud of fog and wind, making it much colder. I was forced to wear the reusable poncho I keep in my pack to stay warm. No matter what time of year, bring extra layers!
How Long Does It Take?
This question of course depends on the trail and the hiker! For example, my most recent hike via Alum Cave took me 3 hours to reach the lodge, but I have completed it in less time and more time. However, I'm a seasoned hiker with a generally quick pace. If you're new to the hiking scene, prepare your timeline assuming it will average out to about 1.5 miles per hour. Some miles are easier than others, but this is a good rule of thumb to start with if you don't have much experience.
Pro Tip: In the Smokies you are always going to have better luck parking and more time on the trail to yourself if you start early. Particularly with extremely popular trails like Alum Cave, if you don't arrive before 8:00 am you might not have a place to park your car.
LeConte Lodge: Facilities
There are a couple of restrooms at LeConte Lodge, but don't expect anything too fancy. The lodge's gift shop is open to day hikers from noon to 4:30 pm during their open season (usually from March through November). Day hikers can purchase apparel, stickers, misc gift items and sack lunches. The guest book is located in the gift shop area. If you're planning on purchasing something with a card, you will need to fill out an authorization form (provided on site) and show a valid ID. The lodge does not take American Express.
How Much Water Should I Bring?
On any Smoky Mountain hike with double-digit mileage, it's best to bring 2 liters of water at a minimum. I usually bring 2.5-3 liters of water. You'll be drinking more than you normally would, and it's always best to bring extra. When the lodge is open, there is a water spigot accessible to day hikers next to the gift shop building, but you won't be able to refill during the winter months. Regardless of the refill options, bring more water than you think you need!
Where Are The Best Views?
LeConte Lodge is not the summit of Mount LeConte. There are two accessible peaks on the mountain that require just a bit more hiking to reach, but it's definitely worth it to make the extra climb for a great lunch spot. The closest option for most is the Cliff Tops, with access just up the steps in front of the dining hall to the 0.2 mile spur trail. The other option is Myrtle Point, which is just under a mile from the lodge. If you take The Boulevard, access to Myrtle Point is en route to the lodge.
Where Are The Llamas?
The lodge cares for a team of pack llamas that move supplies up and down the mountain. They always take Trillium Gap Trail typically on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If they're at the lodge, you can find them (possibly eating pancakes) at the lower part of the lodge (beneath the dining hall) close to the entry point for Trillium Gap. If they're on the move, you may find them on the trail after 8:00 am.Trillium Gap Trail
Be sure to check out the lodge's website for more FAQs and information about overnight stays and online shopping. The daily blog posts on High On LeConte are also very useful in determining what your hike might look like regarding weather and trail conditions.
Caroline's GSM Hike Log