Trail: Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte
Type: Out & Back
Surface: Packed Dirt, Rocks, Roots
Distance: 5.1 miles One Way
Time: 3 hours One Way
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Change: 2,762’
Foot Traffic: Crowded
Restrooms: Alum Cave Trail Parking Area & LeConte Lodge (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Streams, Scenic Views, Arch Rock, Alum Cave Bluffs
Alum Cave Trail Trailhead
From Sugarlands Visitor Center: Drive 8.5 miles on Newfound Gap Road (US 441) to the Alum Cave Trail parking area on the left. If the parking area is full, a second parking area is just 150 yards further. Separate trailheads are located in the parking areas.
From Oconaluftee Visitor Center: Drive 19.9 miles on Newfound Gap Road (US 441) to the Alum Cave Trail parking area on the right. Additional parking is located 150 yards further. Separate trailheads are located in the parking areas.
RELATED: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Centers
IMPORTANT: Alum Cave Trail is very popular. Arrive early in peak seasons. When the parking area is full, you may park alongside the road. However, park regulations mandate that all wheels must be off the road and your car may not block any part of the road. Park Rangers issue tickets and fines are assessed to anyone parking illegally.
Alum Cave Trail Description
The trail surface consists of packed dirt, rock, and roots. In other words, it is a typical mountain trail in many ways. However, several sections of the trail are a bit treacherous and can be dangerous.
Trail renovations are underway with the intention of improving safety and ease of the hike.
The hike to Alum Cave Bluffs is a moderate hike for most people. Seasoned hikers comment that this is an easy hike, due to a slight rise in elevation. However, this changes after Alum Cave Bluffs.
NOTE: Alum Cave is not a cave at all, but a large rock overhang. The views from here are beautiful.
Arch Rock | Alum Cave Trail
Before you reach Alum Cave, hikers pass through Arch Rock, a natural formation caused by erosion and the freezing and thawing cycle. Take the steps to the top and continue on the trail to Alum Cave Bluffs.
Hikers continuing on to Mt. LeConte should expect an increase in difficulty. Most hiking guides rate the section from Alum Cave to Mt. LeConte a “strenuous” hike. The elevation rises nearly 2,800 feet.
As hikers advance up the trail, sections become very narrow requiring cable and handrail systems for safety. These systems are in disrepair due to erosion and heavy use over the years.
Mt LeConte Covered in Snow | Alum Cave Trail
IMPORTANT: In 2015, the Trails Forever program began restoring large sections of the trail at higher elevations. The work is scheduled to end on 17 November 2016. Until that time, Alum Cave Trail and the associated parking areas, close every Monday at 7:00 a.m. and remain closed until Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. Hikers may use the trail on weekends only.
Nearby Points of Interest
Chimney Tops and Clingman’s Dome are both popular with hikers. The views are among the top five in the park. LeConte Lodge is the only overnight lodging in the park outside of campgrounds.