The Alum Cave Bluffs Trail is one of the most traversed in the national park and for good reason. It’s by far the most popular route to Mount LeConte as you gain 2600 feet on the way to 6400 feet.
To reach the trailhead via the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg, drive 8.6 miles along Newfound Gap Road traveling east. There you’ll find the sign to the trail and two large parking areas, where a path leads to the beginning of a 2.3 mile hike to Alum Cave Bluff.
The hike itself is a 4.6 mile round-trip climb following by a descent back or 5.1 miles on to LeConte Lodge. Expect the hike to the bluffs to take about 2 and 1/2 hours. Allow for about 3 and 1/2 hours if you decide to go on to LeConte Lodge.
Arch rock is the point of interest along the trail and you’ll bear witness to nature’s majestic power during this 4.6 mile (round-trip) hike. Even better views can be found if you hike on to LeConte Lodge and Cliff Tops.
Just off the parking area, you come to the Alum Cave Bluff Trailhead which is followed on its side for a mile by the Alum Cave Creek. Arch Rock appears at mile 1.5. Here, a set of stone stairs marks your passage through one of the few natural arches inside the national park. Inspiration Point appears at the 1.8 mile mark, where a panoramic view of the area meets the hiker. It’s an overwhelming sight and if you’ve packed a camera this is one of the places to use it. Low shrubs come to dot the trail from here on, before you arrive at Alum Cave Bluff (mile 2.3). Don’t take Alum Cave on name alone. Rather than a cave, it’s black slate that juts out in the form of a ledge, covering the trail and giving the impression of a cave. Alum Cave’s name derives from the alum deposits found along its walls.
If you do decide to continue and hike on to LeConte Lodge, the trail curves and follows the ridge that forms the southern flank of Mount LeConte. You’ll eventually be joined on the left by the Rainbow Falls Trail – 200 yards from it’s finish at LeConte Lodge. LeConte Lodge consists of several wood-shingled cabins, two lodges, and a dining room. There is no electricity and water is pumped into holding tanks from a spring. Reservations can be made at LeConte Lodge by calling (865) 429-5704.