Mt. LeConte Hikes: 6 Trails To Reach The Summit

Mt. LeConte is the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a popular hiking destination. There are actually 6 trails suitable for a Mt LeConte hike, and they all vary in difficulty, length, and features along the way.

Alum Cave Trail

This Mt LeConte hike is the shortest but also the steepest. It has popular landmarks along the way such as Arch Rock, Peregrine Peak, Inspiration Point, and of course the Alum Cave Bluffs. During the summer months you will see beautiful Catawba rhododendron on the route. The trail is about 5 miles one way, making the round trip a solid 10.

Alum Cave Trail

The Boulevard Trail

The Boulevard is about 3 miles longer than Alum Cave with about as much climbing. The trip (starting at the Appalachian Trail on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina) starts at 5,048 feet; it is not the easiest hike. However the folks at High On Leconte say "when the weather is optimal, few hikes rival the beauty and scenery of The Boulevard and AT."

Boulevard Trail

Rainbow Falls Trail

This Mt LeConte hike is almost as popular as Alum Cave due to its length (about 6.7 miles) and of course the beautiful waterfall about halfway down the trail. It can get crowded, but if you arrive early enough you will still get to enjoy the calming sounds of LeConte Creek paired with the forest scenery along the way.

Rainbow Falls

Trillium Gap Trail

Trillium Gap is a bit longer of a trail, but the incline along the way makes it one of the more forgiving Mt LeConte hikes. The entire trail is actually 8.9 miles when starting at Cherokee Orchard (sharing a trailhead with Rainbow Falls) but the popular starting place is just off Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, with the summit only 6.7 miles away. You'll find Grotto Falls on this hike & even some llamas.

Trillium Gap Trail
When guests ask about the easiest trail for climbing Mount LeConte, there is no right or wrong answer. Alum Cave Trail is the shortest, but the steepness and exposed cliffs can be a deal breaker for some. Trillium Gap Trail provides visitors with a friendly alternative. It is the most gradual ascent of the mountain and is entirely forested without having to navigate exposed rock ledges. It's also the supply line for our pack llamas three times a week, so there's an opportunity to see our favorite fuzzy friends!High On LeConte

Bullhead Trail

Another Mt LeConte hike whose trail begins in Cherokee Orchard, Bullhead Trail is not one of the most popular routes. The hike is 6.9 miles long with a gradual incline for about the first mile before the slopes get a good bit steeper. It is generally the hottest trail on the mountain but can make a nice end to a loop hike. You'll also get to enjoy lots of wildflowers along the way.

Bullhead Trail

Brushy Mountain Trail

The 9.1 mile hike on Brushy Mountain Trail is probably the least popular of the six and is usually hiked by those who have already completed the other routes. It's the longest and gains the most in elevation, while not as steeply as Alum Cave or most of the others. There's a great spot to cool off when you cross the stream at Trillium Branch just before turning onto Trillium Gap for the remainder of the trip.

Brushy Mountain Trail
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

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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

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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

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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

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(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 Knob (4.5 m)Vantage PointMyrtle Point (7.1 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

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