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

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

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.

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Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) Elevation Profile

Bullhead Trail (Mt. LeConte) Elevation Profile

Mt. LeConte Trails

Other ways to reach Mt. LeConte: Alum Cave Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5 m) Boulevard Trail (Mt. LeConte) (5.4 m) Brushy Mountain Trail (Mt. LeConte) (4.9 m) Rainbow Falls Trail (Mt. LeConte) (6.6 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: first 2.7 miles on the AT can get fairly crowded; elevation changes make it a tougher one to go back down

More Info


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

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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

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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
Alum Cave Trail (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


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

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Trail Map

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