Alum Cave
April 28, 2023

One of the most impressive features of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Mount LeConte, which is beautiful from both a distance and up close! At 6,593 feet, it is the highest peak that is completely within the boundaries of Tennessee and the third-highest peak in the park! If you’re up for a challenging hike where you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views, there are several wonderful trails that lead to the top! Here are 5 scenic hiking trails that lead to the summit of Mount LeConte:

1. Alum Cave Trail

The Alum Cave Trail is the shortest and most popular hike up to the peak of Mount LeConte, but this 5-mile trail is also the steepest! You’ll be walking through a dense forest with many unique geological features, such as a natural arch called Arch Rock and the Alum Cave Bluff overhang that towers nearly 80 feet high. Take a break during your journey to enjoy Inspiration Point, where there are stunning views from an elevation of 4,700 feet! The steepest part of the trail is the last 1,000 feet, so take your time exploring this strenuous section before reaching the peak!

2. Trillium Gap Trail

Trillium Gap Trail in the Smoky Mountains

If the Alum Cave Trail sounds a bit too intimidating, some folks consider the Trillium Gap Trail as the easiest hike to the summit of Mount LeConte! However, the term “easy” is subjective as you’ll still experience a 6.7-mile uphill trail that is considered moderately challenging. This is the trail that llamas use to bring supplies to the LeConte Lodge several times per week, so it is not as steep as the other trails. While exploring this trail, you’ll get to encounter Grotto Falls which is the only waterfall in the National Park that you can walk behind!

3. Boulevard/Appalachian Trail

The Boulevard/Appalachian Trail is the longest hike to Mount LeConte at 8.1 miles, so you’ll want to get an early start in the morning! The trail begins at an elevation of 5,048 feet, so also be prepared for high-elevation elements during the entire hike. The scenery along the Boulevard Trail is breathtaking, particularly during the spring months when you’ll find beautiful wildflowers in every direction! One of the trail’s highlights is Charlies Bunion, a rocky treeless summit with wonderful views of the Great Smoky Mountains!

4. Rainbow Falls Trail

rainbow falls

Another one of the scenic hiking trails that lead to the summit of Mount LeConte is the Rainbow Falls Trail, which travels for 6.2 miles and offers plenty of incredible features! Rainbow Falls itself is located about 3 miles from the trailhead and it is the tallest single-drop waterfall in the National Park! Once passing the falls, you’ll begin to enjoy more mountain views as you experience an elevation gain of nearly 4,000 feet on your climb up!

5. Bull Head Trail

While the Bull Head Trail is not quite as popular as the other options, this also means that it is the least crowded route to the summit! This 6.9-mile trail features many wooded sections that wind through the trees, as well as clearings with expansive views of the mountains and Greenbrier Valley. After one mile from the trailhead, you’ll find that the trail ascends more rapidly as you climb the Bull Head, which got its name from a resemblance to a bull’s head from a distance!

Now that you know all about the scenic hiking trails that lead to the summit of Mount LeConte, you’re all set for a challenging trek to the peak! Before heading out for the day, be sure to check out our hiking safety tips to make your hiking adventures both safe and enjoyable!