Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte)Difficult

Cherokee Orchard / Gatlinburg, TN

Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte)

Distance (One Way)

5.9 miles

Elevation Gain

4,000 feet


Cherokee Orchard


Gatlinburg, TN

Trail Description Written by Caroline Sullivan

Bullhead Trail to Mt LeConte is a 6.9 mile hike. Beginning at Cherokee Orchard in the Rainbow Falls trailhead parking lot, you can find the trailhead by heading down Old Sugarlands Trail for 0.4 miles. Bullhead Trail to Mt LeConte will begin on your left.

Bullhead Trail (often spelled Bull Head) is one of the less popular routes to Mt. LeConte. The hike to LeConte Lodge is 6.9 miles (0.4 of which are on Old Sugarlands, 0.6 on Rainbow Falls) and is often paired with Rainbow Falls as a 13.4 mile loop hike.

If you're hiking this trail to Mount LeConte, you'll find The Pulpit at mile 2.6 (3.3 if you're hiking back from LeConte). When this trail was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, they constructed this large stone table. According to the book Hiking Trails of the Smokies, "nobody told them to do it", but apparently somebody thought it would be a good idea. On a clear day, one can see English Mountain to the northeast and Sugarland Mountain to the southeast.

"The Pulpit is tall enough for those who stand on it to get a good look northward down into LeConte Creek Valley. It's wide enough for two or three to sit on. So it's an excellent place to stop for lunch or a snack." - Carson Brewer, Hiking Trails of the Smokies

Note: In recent years, it appears that hikers have added a bunch of rocks to the Pulpit and made it very difficult to stand/sit on. Please do not add rocks to the Pulpit. It is a historical structure that should be treated with respect. It is not a rock cairn.

To reach the trailhead, take Historic Nature Trail/Airport Road (light #8) in Gatlinburg. This road soon becomes Cherokee Orchard Road and you’ll cross the boundary to the park at 0.9 of a mile. Head to the right from the Rainbow Falls parking area onto Old Sugarlands Trail and you'll find the intersection at 0.4 miles.

Bullhead Trail goes through a part of the park that was heavily affected by the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires. In certain areas you'll see a great deal of burnt trees cascading down the sides of the trail, revealing clear views of the surrounding mountains.

#mt leconte
#gatlinburg tn

Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) Elevation Profile

Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) Elevation Profile

Trail Difficulty Scales Explained

Elevation Grade


Very Steep

Paul Petzoldt Scale






Shenandoah Scale


Very Strenuous




Hiker Tips & Trivia

  • This is a great downhill hike to pair with Rainbow Falls or Trillium Gap if you're looking for a loop hike to Mount LeConte
  • The earliest European settlers in the Smoky Mountain area called Mount LeConte the Bull Head due to its appearance on the western side of the massif. In 1860 Arnold Guyot wrote in an essay that the central peak of the massif (now known as High Top) had been designated as Mount Le Conte, in recognition of John Le Conte, a physics professor who assisted in measuring the height Clingman's Dome. Eventually the name was applied to the entire massif, and "the Bull Head" became the name of this minor western peak.

Photo Gallery (16)

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 [email protected].

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