The Boulevard Trail to Mount LeConte is one of the less traveled routes to reach LeConte Lodge. Alum Cave Trail, being the shortest of the six, is undoubtedly the most popular and crowded on the mountain. If you're up for adding some additional mileage to your hike and interested in avoiding the crowds, give The Boulevard Trail a shot. This is one of the most rewarding trails in the national park.
Reaching The Boulevard
To begin your journey to LeConte you'll hike 2.7 miles of the Appalachian Trail starting at Newfound Gap. You'll recognize this segment of the hike as the route to reach Charlie's Bunion, another popular hike in the area. To get to Newfound Gap, head to the Sugarlands Visitor Center and take US 441 for about 15 miles until you reach the Rockefeller Monument.Rockefeller Monument
The Appalachian Trail (2.7 m)
Probably due to the popularity of the hike to Charlie's Bunion, this is a fairly rough portion of ground; the trail is worn in many areas where hikers have sought alternate routes around the very rocky parts of the AT. If you set a strong pace from the beginning you can power through this part of the trail fairly quickly. We did it in less than an hour.Appalachian Trail
This was the first time I've ever hiked The Boulevard, and I was hesitant mainly because you can only access it from this part of the AT. Other than the 2.3 miles straight up between Lower Mount Cammerer trail and Mount Cammerer Trail, this is probably my least favorite segment of the AT in the Smokies. I'm not even sure why. It's certainly not easy, but honestly I think I just find it kind of boring. So I wondered if The Boulevard would be worth it. Spoiler alert: it is.
The Boulevard Trail (5.4)
After passing our fair share of hikers on the AT we reached the intersection with The Boulevard. Pretty much immediately, you'll see a sign on the left and a spur trail to the right for The Jumpoff, but we'll get to that later. Initially you will descend for about a mile before the trail levels out into short bits of up and down.Boulevard Trail
Views From The Trail
It will not take long before you come across some astounding mountain views to the right of The Boulevard. There are several places along the way where you'll find just enough of a clearing to really take in the stunning mountains. On a clear day in the winter or early spring, there won't be much to obstruct your views. As you continue along the ridges and slowly climb to LeConte, you'll experience views like this probably a dozen times.
Most websites tend to rate this trail as strenuous. While this LeConte hike is certainly no Gatlinburg trail, I have found it to be one of the most moderate trails of the four I have completed. The most difficult part of it is probably the climb to Anakeesta Knob from either direction, and the final stretch to Myrtle Point just before reaching the lodge. Ultimately I would rate the trail itself as the easiest LeConte hike I have done thus far. See the elevation profile below.
Best Views On The Boulevard
Around the 4.5 mile marker you will come across some of the best views of the hike. This area of the mountain is rocky and barren with no trees obstructing your views to the right. Back in the 1920s, some folks thought they found gold on the mountain. You might have seen some shiny hints of it in the rocks along the way. But don't get too excited; it's just pyrite, also known as fool's gold. You'll see it all over the blue-gray slate-like Anakeesta Formation along this trail.
Lucinda Ogle of Gatlinburg tells a story about her late husband Earnest, and others who were building the first road up the mountain to Newfound Gap. It was in the 1920s. One afternoon, they came riding horses down the mountain and they were jubilant. They had discovered gold, they said. And they carried lumps of the ore in sacks on their horses. They had dug or blasted into Anakeesta Formation and found fool's gold.Carson Brewer, Hiking Trails of the Smokies
Just seven-tenths of a mile from LeConte Lodge you will find a short spur trail to one of the best panoramic views in the Great Smoky Mountains. The 0.2 mile little side route takes you to the top of an astounding assortment of rocky terrain and mountainous scenery in every direction. On a clear day, you can spot Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to the left far in the distance. This is a great place to stop and sit for lunch before making the short trip to the Lodge.
Two-tenths after the marker for Myrtle Point and toward LeConte Lodge, you will find a large rock cairn to your left. This is known as High Top and is technically the highest point of the mountain. The Boulevard Trail is the only one of any of the LeConte trails that passes over the true summit, even though the views from here are minimal. The reason for this stack of rocks has something to do with people trying to make Mt. LeConte taller than Clingman's Dome.
At 6593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies. However, measured from its immediate base to its highest point, Mt. LeConte can be considered the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States, rising 5301 feet from its base near Gatlinburg.Hiking In The Smokies
If you're a well-equipped hiker who can really cover some ground in a relatively short amount of time, you might be able to hit all 3 spur trails that make up this out-and-back hike to LeConte Lodge. This includes the two-tenths of a mile to Myrtle Point, two or three-tenths of a mile to the lodge's Cliff Tops, and about a half mile to the Jumpoff. We managed to get all 3 in on this hike, making the total 18 miles round trip and breaking our day hike record!
Way back down near the start of The Boulevard, take the spur trail to The Jumpoff for some incredible views of Porters Creek Valley and Charlie's Bunion to the east. This popular viewpoint is accessible by a fairly rugged and steep climb over many rocks and roots. When you reach a slight rocky outcropping you won't have to go much further for a better view. But be careful! The Jumpoff is named for it's +1000 foot abrupt drop off a cliff. You won't want to misstep.
While The Boulevard is not the easiest hike (nor the hardest), the route is never boring. There was more to see along this trail than most other popular hikes promising incredible mountain views. If you've got at least one other LeConte trail under your belt (Alum Cave doesn't count) then I highly recommend this as your next hike.
Caroline's GSM Hike Log