Hiking Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Our first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains was in December of 2015. We fell in love and have returned almost every year since. Our first handful of trips were in November and December, but the last one was in June of 2022. Now that we've been in summer and winter, It's tough to decide which is better for vacation. There are so many attractions in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area that it could also be difficult to decide which activity or adventure is your favorite. It's an easy choice for us because we love hiking. Hiking can be strenuous but in the Great Smoky Mountains, it offers rewards in the form of amazing views.
In December of 2020 we hiked the Rainbow Falls trail with the goal of reaching the lodge on Mount LeConte. It was a rough hike, mostly because of the ice and snow further up the mountain. After we each slipped and busted our butts we decided to break out the ice spikes for our shoes. Obviously this helped a lot but the trek up the mountain was still slow because we had to be very cautious. It took a lot of time and energy to get up the mountain and eventually it got the best of us. We were less than a mile from the Mount LeConte Lodge when we made the decision to turn around and head back to the trail head. The decision was made due to our level of exhaustion and because we didn't want the sun to go down while we were still on the trail. The total time it took us was seven and a half hours roundtrip. We were exhausted and our bodies ached. To add insult to injury, we didn't reach our goal of getting to the lodge. We were so close though. It was a difficult decision to turn back, but it was the right call.
Every since that day we've been disappointed that we weren't able to achieve our goal of reaching the top of Mount Leconte and seeing the lodge in person. So when it came time to plan our family vacation in June of 2022, we wanted a rematch with the mountain. On June 30th we took off on the Alum Cave trail headed up to LeConte. The Alum Cave trail is said to be easier than Rainbow falls trail and is probably to most traveled route up to LeConte lodge. We made it up to the Alum cave bluff and stopped for a breather and a snack. After a short break, we continued up the mountain again. The trail above the Alum cave bluff is more difficult, but it offers some nice mountain views.
At the top we took in the sights at the LeConte lodge, utilized their public restrooms, filled our camelbaks with water, and enjoyed lunch at one of their picnic tables. At this point we were pretty wore out, but wanted to go a little further up to Cliff Tops which offers an amazing view. After a brief break up at Cliff Tops, we made our way back down the mountain. The total hike including our breaks was right at 6 hours.
Check out our video below or click this rumble link (Video may not play in Google Chrome)