|Mount Le Conte||[?]|
|Mount Le Conte|
|Photo: sumidiot on Flickr|
[ edit ]
|Distance||10.8 miles (17.4 kilometers)|
|Time Required||5-7 hours|
|Elevation Gain||2824 feet (860 meters)|
|High Point||6590 feet (2010 meters)|
|Low Point||3896 feet (1190 meters)|
|Best Months||April - July|
|Nearest City||Gatlinburg, TN|
The third highest mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mount Le Conte is a quintessential Smokies hike with wonderful views, interesting history, and several different routes.
There are several different trailheads to get to the Mount Le Conte summit.
Trailhead via Alum Cave: Coming from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, go 8.7 miles along the Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441) and you will see signs for the Alum Cave trailhead. The trailhead begins on the south side of the parking lot.
Trailhead via Trillium Gap Trail: After entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Gatlinburg, drive about 2.25 miles and you will get to Cherokee Orchard Loop. Drive another 1 mile and you will reach the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail; take a right here and drive another 1.5 miles to the Trillium Gap parking lot.
Trailhead via Rainbow Falls and Bullhead Trail: From Gatlinburg, TN, turn onto Airport Road. After about 0.75 miles turn onto the Cherokee Orchard Road. This road will take you into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. About 2 miles from the entrance gate you will get onto the Cherokee Orchard Loop. Keep going another half mile and the parking lot for Rainbow Falls will be on your right.
There are several different routes that lead to Mount Le Conte.
Arguably the most popular of the routes. From the trailhead you will share the route along Alum Cave Creek for about a mile. The beginning is a slight ascent and easy enough.
About 1.3 miles in you will reach Arch Rock; you will need to hike under the rock. Going along for another 0.75 miles will take you to Inspiration Point where you will be able to see Mount Le Conte as well as other prominent features like The Eye of the Needle.
At about 2.25 miles in you will reach Alum Cave, which is more of a rock overhang with lichen and plants hanging down. Great views here.
2.5 miles in you will find Gracie's Pulpit, named after a 92 year old woman who hiked to Mount Le Conte. This point marks the halfway point to the summit.
By now you will probably have left most of the crowds behind at Alum Cave and you will get to more ridge like terrain, rock ledges with cables. There will also be some small waterfalls to negotiate - this continues for about 2 miles.
The final section of the trail takes you through some forest sections on your way to the summit. In this forest you will come to the Le Conte cabins at just about 5 miles from the trail head. From here you will hit the Rainbow Falls junction - stay right to continue on the trail.
The summit is another 0.5 miles ahead. You will come to another junction, the Trillium Gap Trail, branching off to the left.
From the parking lot, you will begin the trail on an access road and quickly move onto the main trail. The trail is fairly easy in the beginning, only rising about 500 feet over the first mile and a half. Along this portion you will have several creek crossings where you may need to hop over stones.
After hopping over 3 small creeks, you will run alongside the stream and at 1.3 miles in you will reach Grotto Falls. From here the trail becomes more steep and difficult as it ascends Mount Le Conte. About 1 mile past the falls the trail enters a boulder field, and after 3 miles in you will reach Trillium Gap. A small bit farther on you will reach the junction to Brushy Mountain which you can take by going to the left; to continue on the Trillium Gap Trail take a right.
After Trillium Gap you will enter the final phase of the trail, which is an ascent for the last 3.5 miles. You will pass a heath bald, then a fraser and spruce fir zone. The end of the trail is reached at LeConte Lodge where you can stay the night.
After reaching Rainbow falls, continue onto the footbridge over Le Conte Creek. You will go for approximately 3 miles ascending through switchbacks.
At 6 miles in you will reach the Bullhead Trail junction from which the trail rises quite steeply up to LeConte Lodge.
From the trailhead you will start in a hemlock forest and the first 2 miles will be a series of switchbacks as you ascend.
About 2.5 miles in you will reach a boulder field which is a nice play for a break. There are amazing views of Sugarland Mountain, as well as Gatlinburg. Continuing along you will reach a rather rocky area and the trail becomes a bit strenuous. You will reach Balsam Point about 6 miles in and shortly after you will reach the junction to Rainbow Falls.
The narrow ridge area with the cables can be slightly dangerous, especially in the winter when things get icier and slippery - take care here.
Along the Trillium Gap Trail you will have to hop across some stones on some of the creek crossings.
The trails can be icy during the winter, be careful near edges.
There is no entrance fee for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Le Conte cabins has availability for up to 60 people and offers rustic accommodation in beautiful surroundings. The rooms have lanterns, wash basins, wooden tables and chairs, etc. Visit http://www.leconte-lodge.com/home.html for more information.
Mount Le Conte is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River.
Information in the Quick Facts is for the Alum Cave trailhead.
Like many trails in the Smokies, spring and early summer offer great opportunities to see wildflowers in bloom, and the rhododendron on this trail is wonderful at this time.
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Trailhead (35.627217, -83.449602) : via Alum Cave|
Trailhead (35.684163, -83.461894) : via Trillium Gap Trail
Trailhead (35.679643, -83.484377) : Rainbow Falls
Trail End (35.654073, -83.437655) : Mount Le Conte
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