|Back in the Great Smokies!|
We're at the halfway point for this grand roadtrip! We are 13 states in and some 20 adventures. It is so nice to be finally exploring the south as an adult. I've lived here before as a child and have the fondest memories. However I've been mostly in the west and New England since becoming an adult. I've never been to most of these places but they still evoke memories of boy scout and family trips to similar areas. For that reason, I think I'm enjoying this road trip more than ever!
Today's destination was Mt LeConte. Taller and grander summits exist in the area but I couldn't pass through without climbing Tennessee's highest summit. Clingmans Dome is higher but it is shared with North Carolina. Some consider LeConte to be the de facto high point of the state. I couldn't miss it.
View Mt LeConte via Alum Cave Trail in a larger map
This is the most popular route up the mountain due to the natural scenery and the abundance of views. I'd recommend hitting the trail early to avoid traffic jams at the parking lot and on the trail.
Starting at an elevation of about 3,800', the trail begins a deceptively easy ascent up the valley of Alum Cave Creek. This is a delightful section that is well sheltered by rhododendron and hardwood forests. I imagine many a hiker has started off thinking the whole trail would be this way. The easy part abruptly ends at Arch Rock, 1.3 miles in. The Arch Rock is a true arch and the trail winds right below it and starts gaining elevation considerably.
|The trail starts off easily enough!|
From here, the trail climbs another 2.7 miles and this is where the bulk of the elevation is gained. I wouldn't say it was difficult compared to anything else in the area but many hikers found this part to be unenjoyable. I thought that it was great because the trail was cut right into the rocks in some sections which allowed for some precipitous overlooks!
|Lighting was tricky but you get the idea about the "cave"|
|*potential* for good views!|
|The trail hugged the mountainside, barely|
Tomorrow I would be climbing Clingmans Dome. It was a good warm up!
Read. Plan. Get Out There!