Mt. Le Conte seen
Mt. Le Conte is the 2nd highest mountain in Tennessee, thus the 2nd highest in the Smoky Mountains after Clingman's Dome and the 6th highest mountain in the eastern U.S after Mt. Mitchell, Mt. Clark, Clingman's Dome, Mt. Guyot and Balsam Cone.
The mountain is accessible through a number of trails, the shortest being a 5,5 mile hike on the Alum Cave trail from highway US 441. A lodge "village" is located just below the summit, so if you hike up in the morning, you are likely to meet a number of hikers coming down. The mountain is also connected to the Appalachian trail via the Boulevard trail, so many A.T hikers stop by the Mt. Le Conte lodge.
Popular trails to Mt. Le Conte are the Bullhead Trail, Rainbow Falls trail, Trillium Gap trail, Brushy Mountain trail, Boulevard trail (connects to the Appalachian trail) and Alum Cave trail. This page will only document the Alum Cave trail.
US highway 441 - Mt. Le Conte on Alum Cave trail (summer)
Trip report Apr 21 2002:
After 14 days (on the job) in Wisconsin, without a single mountain in view,
I couldn't get to the Smokies fast enough. I was treating myself with
a few days of vacation before I headed back to Norway.
As I landed in Knoxville, I decided to head to Gatlinburg, which would be a great base for hiking in the Smokies. As I left I40 and entered US 441, the amount of traffic astounded me. I thought I was heading into a sleepy area, totally outside any visitor season. As I came to the city of Sevierville, the traffic stopped moving. I assumed it was the ordinary Saturday night traffic jam. I rolled down the window and got some useful info from a guy in the other lane. It turned out to be the "antique-car- roadshow week-end", taking place once in spring and once in autumn, in the town of Pigeon Forge. People came from everywhere. After over an hour in the jam, I decided to turn back when the other guy told me that it probably would take me another hour to get to Gatlinburg. Apparently, these veteran cars were driving around in Pigeon Forge, Around and around. All the time....
So, after a good night's sleep in Sevierville, I headed for the Smokies 07:00AM the next morning, determined to avoid the "terrorists" in Pigeon Forge. I beat them to it, and left the Alum Cave trailhead 08:00AM. It was a cool morning, so I could maintain a good speed. The trailhead info sign suggested a 6-8 hours roundtrip, which I just had to beat. After 45 minutes, I reached Alum Cave Bluff. As I reched 6000 feet, cold winds raged in the hills, and I was glad I brought some extra clothing.
I got to the summit, less than two hours after I left the trailhead. I actually missed the summit at first, and had to go back up. I noticed a pile of rocks that didn't get there by nature. Then I checked the GPS, and the GPS altitude reading was only off by 6 feet. Now, I normally would climb the highest point made by nature. But, I didn't feel like climbing up a tree, so I settled for ground.
The summit was fogged in. I expected it to burn off, and sat down waiting. But after 10 minutes I got impatient and left. All of the fog disappeared 10 minutes after I left, but I didn't bother to go back up. The view was hazy and the views from the trail were good enough. I caught up with most of the hikers coming down from the lodge, as I was going up. When I looked at the enormous backpacks they carried, I better understood the 6-8 hours hiking time suggested by the trailhead info sign. Back at the car, my actual hiking time was 3 hours, 45 minutes. I was going up almost as fast as I was going down.
As I headed into Gatlinburg, I suddenly remembered the rave in Pigeon Forge, and took a long roundtrip through 321 north and 416 north, which took me to Sevierville.
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