Alum Cave Trail (Mt. LeConte)Difficult

Newfound Gap Rd. / Gatlinburg, TN

Difficult
Alum Cave Trail (Mt. LeConte)

Distance (One Way)

5.0 miles

Elevation Gain

2,929 feet

Trailhead

Newfound Gap Rd.

Location

Gatlinburg, TN

Trail Description

Alum Cave Trail is a 5 mile trail starting at Newfound Gap Road and intersecting with Rainbow Falls Trail near the summit of Mount LeConte. Incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains are paired with an incredible cave on this trail, and overall it boasts some pretty spectacular scenery the whole way through.

Along the way to the top you’ll follow the Alum Cave Stream for around a mile. The first landmark you’ll come across is the Arch Rock, a black slate formation that arches over your path. The real attraction is Alum Cave Bluff, a massive overhang that was mined during the Civil War.

Alum Cave Bluffs is about 2.3 miles into this trail with an elevation change of about 1,200 feet, but if you continue to hike the entire trail (5 miles one way) you'll find yourself at Mount LeConte.

#cave
#geology
#historical
#mt leconte
#waterfall
#difficult
#gatlinburg tn

Mt. LeConte Trails

Other ways to reach Mt. LeConte: Boulevard Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.4 m) Brushy Mountain Trail (Mt. LeConte) (4.9 m) Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.9 m) Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte) (6.5 m) Trillium Gap Trail (Grotto Falls, Mt. LeConte) (8.9 m)

Mount LeConte's 6 Trails

Alum Cave

Route Info: 1 trail, 5 miles total

Trailhead: Newfound Gap Road [Map]

Starting Elevation: 3878'

Pros: shortest & easiest route, incredible views throughout including Alum Cave Bluffs, Inspiration Point, and a distant Clingman's Dome on a clear day

Pros: the busiest of all 6 trails and one of the most trekked in the entire park

More Info

The Boulevard

Route Info: 2 trails, 8.1 miles total

Trailhead: Newfound Gap [Map]

Starting Elevation: 5039'

Pros: a high starting point makes for the only LeConte hike that isn't a relentlessly steep climb, incredible views throughout

Pros: the first 2.7 miles on the AT are part of the route to Charlie's Bunion, making it fairly crowded

More Info

Bullhead

Route Info: 3 trails, 6.9 miles total

Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard [Map]

Starting Elevation: 2602'

Pros: potential loop hike, The Pulpit, wide open views for most of the trail after the 2016 Gatlinburg fires, least traveled route

Pros: some of the roughest terrain out of the 6 trails, very steep, many consider it very difficult

More Info

Rainbow Falls

Route Info: 1 trail, 6.5 miles total

Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard [Map]

Starting Elevation: 2602'

Pros: waterfall at the 2.7 mile marker, potential loop hike

Pros: the short waterfall hike makes the first portion of this trail a very crowded spot if you don't start early enough

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Trillium Gap

Route Info: 1 trail, 8.9 miles total

Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard [Map]

Starting Elevation: 2602'

Pros: most gentle incline of the 6, potential loop hike, the LeConte llama train, Grotto Falls early on in the trail

Pros: the longest single trail to LeConte, the last 3.6 miles can feel pretty brutal

More Info

Brushy Mountain

Route Info: 3 trails, 9.1 miles total

Trailhead: Greenbrier Cove [Map]

Starting Elevation: 1696'

Pros: the roundabout way of reaching the lodge makes it an unpopular option, beautiful views of Mt LeConte from the trail & summit of Brushy Mountain

Pros: the longest route possible, includes the last 3.6 miles of Trillium Gap; most of the trail gets overgrown in the spring & summer

More Info
(5 m)Arch Rock (1.4 m)Arch RockAlum Cave Bluffs (2.3 m)Alum Cave Bluffs (4.1 m)Vantage PointInspiration Point (2 m)Inspiration PointAppalachian Trail (2.7 m)Boulevard Trail (5.4 m)The Jumpoff (2.8 m)The JumpoffAnakeesta KnobAnakeesta KnobVantage Point (6.9 m)Vantage PointMyrtle Point (7.4 m)Myrtle PointHigh TopHigh TopOld Sugarlands Trail (0.4 m)Bullhead Trail (5.9 m)Rainbow Falls Trail (0.6 m)The PulpitThe PulpitFire Damage (2.1 m)Fire DamageIntersection with Rainbow FallsIntersection with Rainbow FallsRainbow Falls Trail (6.5 m)Rainbow FallsRainbow FallsFire Damage (3.7 m)Fire DamageTrillium Gap Trail (8.9 m)Grotto FallsGrotto FallsBrushy MountainBrushy MountainPorters Creek Trail (1 m)Brushy Mountain Trail (4.5 m)Trillium Gap Trail (3.6 m)Summit of Brushy MountainSummit of Brushy Mountain12345678925003500450055006500

Trail Difficulty Scales Explained

Elevation Grade

11%

Very Steep

Paul Petzoldt Scale

10.9

Strenuous

5

10

15

Shenandoah Scale

171

Strenuous

50

100

150

Hiker Tips & Trivia

  • Alum Cave Trail is one of the 6 trails to Mount LeConte; it's the shortest, but also one of the steepest.
  • Unsurprisingly, employees at LeConte Lodge have become quite familiar and proficient with this route to work. "The current record for leaving the lodge, descending Alum Cave Trail, driving to Gatlinburg, purchasing beer, then returning is 2 hours and 50 minutes. Another Le Conte employee, on an emergency quest for popcorn and a newspaper, descended the trail in 33 minutes, then completed the return trip in only 1 hour and 18 minutes." - James Wedekind, Hiking Trails Of The Smokies

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Trail Map

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The above list of hiking trails in the Smokies is incomplete and constantly being updated. If you have information or photos you would like to contribute, please contact caroline@pigeonforge.com.

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