Climbing Mt. Leconte Via Alum Cave Trail – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Remember a few months ago when snow spoiled my plans to climb Mt. Leconte in The Smokies? Well, I decided it was finally time to go back and conquer the mountain! I reserved the hotel, made the 4-and-a-half-hour drive down to Tennessee, and prepared to complete the hike the following day, which was Saturday.

A Cold, Wet, and Foggy Start

I awoke to cold temperatures and pouring rain. On top of all this, it was extremely foggy. This was going to make for one interesting trip!

It was a foggy morning on the mountain!

The one advantage of these weather conditions? It kept the crowds at bay on an otherwise packed trail!

The Hike

I’m not sure exactly how to sum up this hike in words. Amazing, breathtaking, etc. These words just don’t even begin to convey this hike! All I can say is, if you ever have the chance to do this hike, I highly recommend it!

All the rain and snow melt made for some swollen streams.

The scenery the whole way up the mountain was breathtaking. I found myself stopping every few feet to snap another photo. The whole place was just so picturesque, and the fog was only adding to the atmosphere!

Along the way, I saw Arch Rock and Alum Cave, two extremely cool sites, but what we were really here for was to reach the summit of Leconte. As I continued on, the trails got steeper and more treacherous.

Towards the higher elevations, the trail was covered with patches of snow and ice. Unfortunately, I forgot I had my microspikes with me, so I ended up slipping and sliding all over the place!

Reaching the Top

Finally, after many hours of climbing, I reached the Leconte Lodge. It was definitely a sight for sore eyes (and legs)!

I’m going to have to look into staying here sometime!

There were even a few spots along the trail where the fog had lifted enough for a few moments to tease us with a bit of a view.

View from the trail.

Just a short distance from the lodge I reached my final goal: the summit of Mt. Leconte.

The summit of Mt. Leconte

The summit of Leconte is marked with a large pile of rocks and, to some, that may be about all it is to them. There is no amazing view. You don’t win anything for making it up here. It’s just a pile of rocks. But, to some of us, we can see more than a mere pile of rocks. we can see the struggle and the accomplishment of not just conquering the mountain, but of also conquering ourselves.

Regardless of what you see, however, it was time to start heading back. On the way, I decided to check out Cliff Tops. I’m told the view from here is amazing, but it was shrouded in fog when I was there.

Cliff Tops shrouded in fog.

Time to Head Down the Mountain

After checking out The Cliff Tops, it was time to head back down the mountain. Much of the hike down was pleasant, certainly easier than the way up. It also didn’t hurt that I remembered my microspikes for the way down!

There were even some views on the way down.

Unfortunately, upon reaching Alum Cave again, I came to realize what everyone means when they say this is an extremely busy trail. There were even some points where there were people hiking single file in both directions! Let this be a lesson to arrive early if you want to avoid the crowds.

Despite the crowds at the end, this was an awesome hike. In fact, I will go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done! I highly recommend that you check this one out if you get the chance!

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