Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mt. LeConte Hike Part 1

Nestled on top of a mountain in the Smoky Mountain National Park is the LeConte Lodge. At 6,593 feet elevation, Mt. LeConte is third highest peak in the park.
The only way to reach the lodge is to hike one of five trails ranging from 5-8 miles each way.
Back in October of 1999 we made our first trip up and down on the same day via the Alum Cave Trail. This trail is the shortest (10 mile round trip) but is rated the most strenuous.

We were pretty proud of ourselves and thought we really accomplished something!! Very tired and sore, we were glad we did it, but thought we would never do that again!!!:) We hurt so bad it was excruciating just to step off of a curb.
Well, it took about 3 years before I told my husband I think I would like to hike up there again. So in 2002 we made our 2nd trip up and down the same trail. On that trip we decided if we ever do the hike again why not stay at the lodge overnight. So we inquired how to get a reservation and that is how our love for this mountain started.
Since those initial first two hikes we have stayed on top in one of the cabins three times and have a reservation for next year. We have done all the trails except one which we will do next year.

Our inspiration for hiking this mountain came from a website I found about Ed Wright, a man who started hiking the Alum Cave Trail after he retired and went on to hike it over 1300 times. I always hoped to meet him but sadly he passed away a few years ago.

Last year we went up our favorite trail Alum Cave, and came down on the Boulevard Trail which is the longest at 8 miles. This one has been my least favorite so far probably because of it's length. It had a lot of ups and downs and just went on and on and on!!
 Since we were combining two trails on this hike,we parked our car at Newfound Gap and a shuttle took us a few miles back down the road to the Alum Cave trailhead. Tomorrows hike down the Boulevard comes out at Newfound Gap.

Alum Cave Creek

In my opinion Alum Cave Trail has the most spectacular scenery of all the trails we have done, but in all fairness some of the trails we hiked were so fogged in I couldn't tell if I was missing a view or not.
It was pretty foggy on this trip so I didn't get too many pictures unfortunately.

 About 1.3 miles into the hike you arrive at Arch Rock. The trail goes up through the rock and...
after a steep climb exits at the top.

Two miles into the hike we arrive at Inspiration Point and stop for a break. I take a few pictures of the fog moving up the mountains.
I love the views on a clear day, but there's something about fog and mountains that I find so fascinating. I could sit here at Inspiration Point a long time and watch this but we still have three miles to go.

Locals have nicknamed this the Dolly Parton Peaks:)

This is the Eye of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge.

Here you can see both holes in the ridge. If it wouldn't be foggy, you would be able to see Big Duck Hawk Ridge behind Little Duck Hawk. There used to be manways out across these ridges but are now closed because of nesting Peregrine Falcons.

At 2.2 miles we pass Alum Cave Bluff, but it's too foggy to see any views today. I don't have any good photos of this place but it's not really a cave but a huge concaved cliff about 80 feet high and 500 feet long. I have heard in the winter icicles as large as a human body hang from these cliffs. I would hate to be under there when those come crashing down!
Shortly after the Bluffs we pass the halfway point now called Gracies Pulpit. At this location the trail levels out and actually descends about 80-100 feet to a saddle which is a relief from climbing but I know we have to make that all up again.

Once again the trail gets steep and narrow and there are places where the park has installed cables....
to help hikers get through these difficult sections. Yes, that's the trail. I honestly think the pictures look worse than it really is. Not that it's easy, but it's not as scary as it looks.

These steps were not here the first few times we hiked this trail and makes this section a little easier.There are places where the trail is so rocky and steep Ed Wright always called it Bust A_ Rocks!! He was right!

You don't want to take any missteps here. We have about a mile to go from this area.

When we round the corner by this cliff the trail gets level and you enter a spruce-fir forest for the last half mile.

Finally we have reached our destination.
To be continued.


  1. Very cool place to go but have to admit I would not like the idea of a hike where a cable was needed. :)
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Hi Pearl, So how many times have you hiked to LeConte now??? My best friend and hubby do it every year.. She called to reserve a spot for next October recently and gripes BIGTIME about the increased cost to stay up there now... I couldn't believe that it's THAT expensive....

    We've never been and with our back problems, we may never get there. But I've always heard that the Alum Cave Trail is the best one overall.


  3. We did the hike 5 times now. Three of those we stayed overnight. I kinda cringed when I saw how much it went up...but we don't do it every year and prices of everything have gone up drastically. I'll pinch my penny's on other things I guess!
    So far Alum Cave is our favorite. Next year we will do Trillium Gap then we will have all 5 done.

  4. What an incredible accomplishment! I wonder if you could eventually post a site about these trails to carry on Ed Wright's legacy. Thank you for bringing us along, and looking forward to Part 2.