Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Mount Le Conte

Bag one of the Smokies' most thrilling peaks on this 12.6-mile shuttle hike that takes in ridgetop views before tackling a rocky, high exposure descent.
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Bag one of the Smokies' most thrilling peaks on this 12.6-mile shuttle hike that takes in ridgetop views before tackling a rocky, high exposure descent.

On this 12.6-mile shuttle hike, you'll scramble up 6,593-foot Mount Le Conte, the third highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From Newfound Gap, start by hiking 2.7 miles north along the Appalachian Trail to the Boulevard Trail. After turning left onto Boulevard Trail, take a spur trail detour to Mount Kephart and The Jumpoff, a sheer 1,000-foot cliff with superb views of Charlies Bunion, a unique rock formation revealed by a 1925 fire.

Trekking west on the Boulevard Trail, you'll enjoy great ridge views over the next 4.7 miles en route to the Le Conte summit area. Set up camp near the top at the newly renovated shelter (reservations required) and take advantage of dining facilities at the Le Conte Lodge.

The next day, descend the exposed Alum Cave Trail (using steel cables in some of the riskier areas) toward the Alum Cave Bluffs. Farther down, Inspiration Point provides the last great views of the wilderness. Descend through Arch Rock, crossing occasional wooden bridges over the Styx River and then Alum Cave Creek on the way back down to your shuttle car on US 441.

-Mapped by Scott Sanders, GroundedGraphics.com

PLAN IT

MAP
>> Trails llustrated Clingmans Dome/Cataloochee/Great Smoky Mountains NP ($10, natgeomaps.com)
>> View a map of the park at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.
>> Order the USGS topo quads listed above at store.usgs.gov.
>> Order a custom map of this route at MyTopo.com.

GUIDEBOOK: Hiking Trails of the Smokies ($21, smokiesstore.org) details all 150 maintained trails within the park.

PERMITS: Required when camping at a backcountry campsite or shelter (free, reserve up to one month before your trip and pick up in person). Backcountry reservation office: (865) 436-1231, nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm

CONDITIONS: Check weather at Gatlinburg, TN (37738) Weather

SEASON: The park is open year-round, and our trail scouts have hiked this route in every season. Check for road, trail, and camping closures at nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm. Curious about fall foliage? Check nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm.

PARK INFO: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, (865) 436-1200; nps.gov/grsm

SMOKIES TRIP PLANNER: nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/trip-planner.htm

OTHER RESOURCES

GAS
Shell Super Mart
376 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-2161

Texaco
799 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-4539

GEAR
Nantahala Outdoor Center
13077 Highway 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
(888) 905-7238
noc.com

Blackrock Outdoor Co.
570 West Main St.
Sylva, NC
(828) 631-4453

Mast General Store
63 N. Main St.
Waynesville, NC 28786
(828) 452-2101
mastgeneralstore.com

Smoky Mountain Outfitters
469 Brookside Village Way
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 430-2267

GROCERIES
Food City
1219 East Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-3116

Bearland General Store
305 Historic Nature Trail
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 436-4565

Bradley's Grocery‎
1699 Paint Town Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-9132

RESTAURANTS
Smoky Mountain Brewery
1004 Parkway # 501
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
coppercellar.com/Restaurant-SmokyMountainBrewery.html

Best Italian Cafe & Pizzeria
968 Parkway # 9
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-4090 ‎
bestitalian.com

Granny's Kitchen
1098 Paint Town Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-5010

Peter's Pancakes and Waffles
1384 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC
(828) 497-5116

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 20.3

Waypoints

LEC001

Location: 35.61095, -83.424897

From Newfound Gap, begin hiking east on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (next to the monument). A public restroom is located to the right of the trailhead.

LEC002

Location: 35.620178, -83.406293

As the AT climbs the ridge spine of Mount Ambler, it passes several scenic overlooks. Just 0.2 mile ahead, continue left @ 3-way junction to stay on the AT.

LEC003

Location: 35.628567, -83.390522

Turn left @ 3-way junction onto the un-blazed Boulevard Trail. The AT continues right.

LEC004

Location: 35.629221, -83.390436

Keep left on the Boulevard Trail at another 3-way junction; a right here detours to Mount Kephart and The Jump Off.

LEC005

Location: 35.653841, -83.434861

Turn right @ 3-way intersection to continue toward the Mount Le Conte summit. The Myrtle Point trail heads off to the left.

LEC006

Location: 35.654315, -83.436613

Mount Le Conte (6,593 ft.): To continue toward the Le Conte Lodge, go right at this 3-way intersection.

LEC007

Location: 35.653324, -83.43882

The trail passes the Le Conte Shelter on the left (reservations required). The Le Conte Lodge is on the right.

LEC008

Location: 35.653251, -83.439939

Turn right @ 3-way intersection.

LEC009

Location: 35.653949, -83.440368

Turn left @ 3-way intersection. Ahead, pass the entrance to Le Conte Lodge.

LEC010

Location: 35.655042, -83.442239

Turn left @ 3-way intersection to continue hiking west away from the lodge area on the Alum Cave Trail. Ahead, the trail makes a switchback descent with some decent exposure.

LEC011

Location: 35.629396, -83.45129

The trail ends at the Alum Cave parking lot on US 441.

Alum Cave Trail

Location: 35.65448, -83.445421

Exposure on the Alum Cave Trail

Newfound Gap

Location: 35.610967, -83.424736

Rocky AT Terrain

Location: 35.615442, -83.415113

Fir Tunnel

Location: 35.634244, -83.392324

Firs on the Boulevard Trail.

Boulevard Views

Location: 35.636616, -83.393784

Boulevard Views

Location: 35.637593, -83.394352

Le Conte Shelter

Location: 35.653338, -83.438609

Le Conte Stones

Location: 35.654332, -83.436377

Le Conte Lodge

Location: 35.653931, -83.440089

The Le Conte dining Hall is in the center, down the hill.

Alum Cave Trail

Location: 35.65387, -83.445379

Alum Cave Trail Views

Location: 35.645457, -83.438941

Alum Cave

Location: 35.63768, -83.443115

Alum Cave

Location: 35.637401, -83.442922

Alum Cave Waterfall

Location: 35.636459, -83.442106

Eye of the Needle

Location: 35.63618, -83.441033

Alum Cave Creek

Location: 35.639842, -83.438137

Arch Rock

Location: 35.637453, -83.437836

The trail passes through Arch Rock.

Creek Crossing

Location: 35.637052, -83.437954

A bridge crossing over Alum Cave Creek.

Alum Cave Creek

Location: 35.63216, -83.44466