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Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

Champaign, Illinois
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Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

Hi all, we are really wanting to do this hike, but we aren't in the greatest shape. The longest hike we've done so far is Chimney Tops, and it took us a while (we started at about 7am and got back to the car about 1pm).

From what I've read this is the shortest (so steepest) to the top, but also the most scenic. How long has it taken you to do this hike?

If we left super early, will we get back before dark? (We would hike in June).

Any other advice is appreciated! Thanks!

Arkansas Ozarks
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1. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

I've hiked to Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave; I found it very challenging in some spots. Spent the night at the lodge up top. Although I know some folks do it, I wouldn't want to go up and down in the same day.

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2. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

You might consider hiking to Alum Cave without going further, just to test your limits a bit. You could always complete the hike on your next visit if you then believe you can make the time. The Alum cave hike is a pretty nice hike all on it's own.

Personally, I hate to be rushed on a hike. I don't dilly dally around too much, but I'm not trying to break any records either,..and I like to find a place, at times, sit to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. So having never made the entire trek to Mt. Leconte, I will do so when I have the time to spend the night up there.

Pembroke Pines...
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3. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

Alum Cave trail is a great trail with lots of features to see along the way. If you want to go all the way to the top (to Mt LeConte Lodge), that's about 5.5 miles each way. I'd say that's a fairly ambitious hike if you feel you aren't in the best shape.

I hiked all the way up a few years ago when our kids were younger. We made it in about 4-5 hours, but I was whupped and glad that I was spending the night up there at the Lodge. I was in average shape at that time. I'm much more active now (run marathons), and can skip up to the lodge and back down in time for lunch. So it really depends on your physical conditioning.

However, you don't have to go the entire trail! It's all pretty. Lower down, you walk through woods and by the stream. There are a couple of log crossings, and you pass through Arch rock about a mile in. If you go another 1.5 miles or so, you'll hit the Alum cave bluff. (Note there is a short, but VERY steep section just below the bluff, but there is a handrail to help with the ascent.) Most people stop there. At that point you are less than half way to the top, but if you keep going, that's when the mountain views start to get spectacular. You can turn around at any point.

My suggestion is to start early, take it at your own pace, and turn around whenever you feel appropriate based on time or how you feel. No matter how far you go, it is a beautiful hike.

Tullahoma, Tennessee
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4. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

I am 71, my wife is 70. We hiked this trail in April, going up and back down in one day. We made the rouind-trip in 8 hours, including the time we spent at the top.

We are in good physical condition, work out daily and hike frequently.

Start the hike but if it gets to be more than you wsnt to do, turn back. Don't let your pride get you into exhausting and unpleasnt conditions. We have turned back on more than one trail in more than one park. Better to enjoy part of a trail than to regret going too far.

Cullowhee, North...
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5. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

It is not necessarily the steepest because of its length. Alum starts the highest, excpet for the Boulevard and it has the least elevation gain and while steep in some sections, it is in many ways like most other trails in the park that start in the valley and climb to a knoll, gap or ridge. The Chimneys is the steepest trail in the park then perhaps Snake Den Ridge or the AT from Fontana are as steep. I have hiked them all, so it is fuzzy.

If you get hiking at 7 AM you should be fine to go to the top and be back by 7 PM. Now given I know not your fitness even though you metioned it some. If you want to do what other say, like go to Alum Cave then that is fine too, but I have easily hiked up and back in day on Alum Cave. Bring a head light if you are not sure for a peace of mind.

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6. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

...agree with Bob. Alum's not necessarily steeper, it just starts about 1000 feet higher than the trails coming from Gatlinburg -- Rainbow, Bullhead, Trillium. and being a mile shorter helps, too.

and the views! the views on this trail make it unlike any other trail in the park. but even if you just make it to the Bluffs and back, you'll still have some wonderful views and a beautiful creek hike from the trailhead all the way up to Arch Rock.

if you're able to do this on a weekday, aim for that. the crowds on this trail in the summertime can be a little annoying. but, if you start early enough this may not be an issue for you until the latter half of your hike.

enjoy it, MrsT. this trail will be awash in color by mid-june.

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7. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

tenntraveller - You are an inspiration! We are 10 years your junior , and hope to be able to do as much as you when we are in our 70's. That would be amazing! Hubby and myself also work out 5-6 days a week, but we are not are fortunate as you to have good hiking nearby.

Louisville, Kentucky
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8. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

My husband and I hiked this trail all the way to lodge and back in one day for the first time in May 2010. We are both in our late 50's, and not "active", except for the normal yard work, evening walk, etc. We got on the trail at 8 am, and went up to the Lodge, hung around for about an hour, and got back to our car about 5 pm. We took plenty of rest breaks going up, but coming down seemed much faster because we didn't get winded.

I think because it was our first time up, the different sights, along with the anticipation of seeing the lodge was a big incentive to keep plugging along. Alum is a beautiful and interesting trail.

That said, we were very sore the following day, and wished we had spent the night at the lodge.

We did the trail again in Novemebr 2010, but only to the Bluffs because we had our grandson with us.

We are returning in August, and staying at the lodge this time. I want to try Trillium, to see the llamas.

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9. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

My extended family hiked this trail only to the bluff (and that was what we had planned to do). It was a beautiful, beautiful hike, but we knew with the various ages (baby to grandparents) doing any more would kill someone. :)

I think part of the difficulty of the hike would depends upon the weather. The day we hiked it in July, it was about 100 degrees and extremely humid (not exaggerating -- it stormed later that day). The trail to Inspiration Point and the bluff is extremely interesting and pretty. We hiked up and back in the morning, and then had a picnic somewhere. I hope to repeat just that part of it again this year, and maybe someday when my littlest is older, to go all the way to the top.

Good luck!

10. Re: Mt Leconte via Alum Cave

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