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Mount LeConte - Great Smoky Mountains Adventure

The Basics:
Event Type:Hike
Event Location: Great Smoky Mtns National Park, NC & TN
Date(s) & Time:Sat, Jun 25 2011  6:00 am >> Sat, Jun 25 2011 9:00 pm  (Carpool Departure: 6:00 am   *log in for location*)
Registration Opens: Wed, Jun 8 2011 3:15 pm
Registration Cut Off: Fri, Jun 24 2011 2:30 pm
Event Duration:15 Hours
Difficulty Rating:D5: Difficult
Trip Leader(s):
Tom Jarosz (Juh'rose)
Email Trip Leader(s)
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Member Cost:None

Participant Info:
Who's Invited: Members Only, 21 And Older Only
Maximum Group Size:12
Minimum Group Size:4
Number Registered So Far: 14 / 0 (To see who's signed up, log in to the Member Area)
Are Dogs Permitted: No


Escape the heat!   Come join us for an 'All Day' adventure trip to the Smoky Mountains & hike up to LeConte Mountain!

If ever there was a classic hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte would certainly qualify. Sure, there are trails in the Smokies that are far longer, that gain more elevation, or have steeper climbs, but the Alum Cave Trail is unmatched in its combination of interesting geological features, history, high adventure and stunning views.  

To reach the 6593-foot summit of Mount LeConte, you'll climb 2763 feet and hike 5.5 miles from the Alum Cave trailhead and return down the same route - very scenic views.

Note: We will be departing the Indian Trail Park and Ride at 6:00 AM sharp!

 Trail Description: 

The first section of trail, up to Arch Rock, is a fairly gentle climb. You'll follow the Alum Cave Creek for the first mile, before switching to the smaller Styx Branch just below Arch Rock. This section of trail is choked with rhododendron, offering beautiful blooms in early summer.  

At just over 1.3 miles from the trailhead you'll reach Arch Rock, the first prominent landmark along the trail. The arch was formed by freezing and thawing which eroded away the softer rock from underneath the harder rock. The trail actually goes under the arch and requires a climb of several steps etched into the rock to exit at the top.

At roughly 2 miles into the hike you'll reach Inspiration Point with its commanding views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge to the west of you and Myrtle Point on Mount LeConte towards the northeast. The Eye of the Needle, a hole in the rock near the top of Little Duck Hawk Ridge, can also be seen from Inspiration Point.

At 2.2 miles you'll reach Alum Cave, which, really isn't a cave, but is actually a concaved bluff, about 80 feet high and roughly 500 feet in length. During the warmer months of the year, water drips off the ledges above you. In the winter, these water droplets form into large icicles.  During the Civil War, the Confederate Army mined saltpeter out of the cave in order to manufacture gunpowder.  The views from Alum Cave are outstanding.

Just past Alum Cave is Gracie's Pulpit. This landmark is named after Gracie McNichol, who, believe or not, hiked to Mount LeConte on her 92nd birthday. At roughly 2.6 miles from the trailhead, the pulpit marks the halfway point to Mt. LeConte.  

Over the next two miles you'll pass over several rock ledges, many with cable hand rails. A few of these ledges pass small waterfalls, requiring some negotiation to get around them while grasping on the cables. On a hot day, the cool water splashing on you is quite welcome.

The last of these ledges passes right beneath Cliff Top. Once beyond this point the trail flattens out and you enter a spruce-fir forest. Before long, the LeConte Lodge cabins come into view. Before reaching the lodge, at just over 5 miles from the trailhead, the Alum Cave Trail dead-ends into the Rainbow Falls Trail.

Before reaching the summit, the Trillium Gap Trail will branch off to your left at 5.2 miles. The summit, better known as High Top, will be at 5.5 miles. You'll know you've reached the highest point on Mt. LeConte when you've reached the cairn, or pile of rocks, just off the main trail on the right.

At 6593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies. However, from its immediate base to its highest peak, Mt. LeConte is the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States, rising 5301 feet from its base near Gatlinburg.  You won't have any views up at High Top; however, there are two places on the mountain where you can find outstanding panoramic views. One is at Myrtle Point and this is where we will stop and have lunch to enjoy the views. 

Optional - We will spend a few moments at Cliff Top before going on to High Top and Myrtle Point.  To get to Myrtle Point, you'll need to walk another 0.4 miles by continuing on the main trail, which has now turned into the Boulevard Trail. About 0.2 miles from High Top, take the fork off the right side of the trail to reach Myrtle Point, which is another 0.2 miles from this junction. Myrtle Point provides nearly 360 degree views and is the best location for sunrises on Mt. LeConte.).

After lunch, we will begin our hike back down via Alum Cave Trail and head home.  The hike down the mountain is just as scenic as the hike up the mountain!

Note: The above Itinerary and routes are subject to change at the discretion of the trip leader

***Time permitting and group attitude and appetite, we will stop in Clayton for dinner before continuing back to Atlanta.

Required Items to Bring:

Weather on the mountain is normally cool and constantly changing, so please dress appropriately.

-Lunch and snacks
- Sturdy Hiking Boots (comfortable & well-broken-in)
- Layered Clothing, spare dry Socks, etc. appropriate for weather
- Cap & Light Rain Suit or Poncho
- Light Daypack or Fannie Pack for dayhikes
- Trekking Poles or Hiking Stick are recommended.
- Compact Camera
-2-3 liters of water

Recommended Items to Bring:
Use our Event Checklists to make sure you have everything you need.

-Enthusiasm and sense of humor, and a strong pair of hiking legs!

How to Get There:
Event Directions:

From Spaghetti Junction (I-85/I-285 Interchange in NE Atlanta):
1) Take I-85 North about 18 miles to Exit #113, I-985 North. (The Indian Trail Park/Ride Lot at Exit #101).
2) Bear Left at I-85 Exit #113 onto I-985/ GA-365 North and follow it beyond Gainesville where it merges with US-441 North. (Merge point is about 45 miles north of the I-85 exit, near Cornelia, GA).
3) Carefully follow the US-441 signs northward through Clayton GA, Franklin NC, Dillsboro NC, and Cherokee NC to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on your right at the southern entrance of Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park. (There are several turns along the way. Total distance along US-441 from its GA-365 junction near Cornelia is about 80 miles.)
NOTE: In lieu of using the above simplified directions from NE Atlanta you can enter "Oconaluftee, NC 28719"as your destination and use for detailed directions from any point of origin.

4) Our target time to start the hike is around 10 AM.  Once we reach the park entrance, we will re-group at the visitor center.  From the visitor center, we will continue to drive northward to Newfound Gap (~15 miles beyond the visitor center) where we'll again rendezvous. After leaving our vehicles at the "Grassy Patch" parking lot (~4 miles further north on US-441) we expect to begin our hiking adventure together from Newfound Gap at about 10 AM +/-.

Carpool to Event Distance (round trip):331Mile(s)
Carpool Departure Time: 6:00 am
Carpool Location:   Log in for location
Carpool Directions:   Log in for directions
Carpool Cost: Estimated cost per vehicle for this event is $132.40 using a reimbursement rate guideline of $0.400 per mile. The total amount should be divided by the number of people in the vehicle, including the driver. This is a guideline, not a rule, for drivers but the cost should not be higher unless there are extenuating circumstances.


1. This is not a beginner's hike and geared towards hikers with previous and recent D5 and/or D6 hiking experience.

2. Schedule and itinerary are subject to change at the discretion of the trip leader. 

* We encourage all members to follow our Etiquette Guidelines while participating in AOC events.

Cost Includes:

Free event!

Cancellation/Partial Attendance:   Please review the AOC cancellation policy.