White llama
April 20, 2022

If you’re an avid hiker, you may have made your way to the summit of Mount LeConte, the third tallest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are 5 different trails you can use to reach the summit of this mountain, and you can even spend the night at LeConte Lodge if you don’t want to hike back down the mountain the same day. The only way to reach the lodge is by one of these trails because there are no roads, so supplies are actually taken to the top of the mountain by llamas! Keep reading to learn more about the llamas that take supplies to LeConte Lodge:

History of LeConte Lodge

Leconte Lodge

The lodge actually predates the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The park was officially established in 1934, and the lodge was built in 1925 by a man named Paul Adams. He was a supporter of protecting the Great Smoky Mountains, and Adams, along with a group of avid hikers, built the lodge for the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association so people could hike to the top of the mountain to appreciate the beauty of the area. By 1926, Jack Huff started to manage LeConte Lodge. It expanded over time to the lodge you can stay in today.

Llamas Bringing Up Supplies

llamas taking supplies to leconte lodge

Since there are no roads to get to the summit, the people who work at the lodge had to get creative with how to bring supplies to the summit. For years, horses were used, but these animals struggled with the rough terrain. In 1986, the lodge switched over to using llamas, and they still continue to use them today!

Llamas have been used for traveling for thousands of years. They are able to carry up to 30% of their body weight, and their feet have leathery pads on them designed for gripping surfaces easily, making them the perfect candidates to help carry the loads to and from LeConte Lodge.

Before the llamas head out on their journey, they eat alfalfa cubes to get some energy for the climb. These creatures are guided by a llama wrangler, so they are in good hands the entire way up and back down the trail. They stay together with the use of rope connected to bridles placed on the llamas. Of course, the wranglers periodically stop so the llamas can get a drink at the creek or if they spot a bear along the trail.

Hiking on the Trail

Grotto Falls

The specific trail used for the llama train is Trillium Gap Trail, which is the same trail used to get to Grotto Falls. This is the trail that is used because it is considered the easiest for the llamas to climb.

They make the trek 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Typically, these animals are brought to the trail between 6 and 6:30 am, and they start their hike at 7:30 am. It takes the llama train about 4 hours to hike from the trailhead to the summit of Mount LeConte, which is 6.7 miles one way.

Now you know all about the llamas that bring supplies to LeConte Lodge throughout the year. While you may not want to brave the full hike with the llamas, you may be interested in hiking another trail in the Smokies! Learn more about hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains before your next trip!