Alum Cave Bluffs & Mt. LeConte

The Alum Cave Trailhead is 8.7 miles south past Sugarlands Visitor Center along Newfound Gap Road. There are several parking areas on the left, but on the day that I went it was extremely crowded (arrived around 11am) and all parking spaces were full necessitating parking on the side of the road.

The first section of the trail (to Arch Rock) is at a fairly gentle grade and follows the Alum Cave Creek.

1.3 miles from the trailhead appears Arch Rock. The trail continues under the arch and has several steps cut into the stone that you climb up before exiting through the top.

Past Arch Rock, the trail continues to Alum Cave. The view includes Anakeesta Ridge predominantly on your left.¬†At roughly 2 miles from the trailhead you’ll arrive at Inspiration Point, that offers a view of Little Duck Hawk Ridge to the west, and Myrtle Point towards the Northeast.

At 2.2 miles, you reach Alum Cave (full disclosure, it isn’t a cave). Alum Cave is actually a concave bluff, approximately 80 feet in height and roughly 500 feet long. Alum Cave has a history being mined first for epsom salt by The Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company (1838) and then for saltpeter which is used to manufacture gunpowder, by the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Past Alum Cave, the trail continues, hugging the cliff face. Over these next two miles you’ll find several narrow rock ledges, including some with cable handrails due to the water seeping out of the rock walls.

Beyond this point the trail levels out and you pass through a dense spruce-fir forest. The Alum Cave Trail ends 5 miles from the trailhead and dead-ends into Rainbow Falls Trail. Take a right here to continue to the summit of Mt. LeConte.

A short distance on you’ll arrive at the outskirts of the LeConte Lodge area, The actual summit of Mt. LeCounte is another half-mile however. You can also take a right to Cliff Top for panoramic views.

To reach the summit, take the Trillium Gap Trail which branches off to the left at approximately 5.2 miles. The summit, better known as High Top, is at the 5.5 mile mark… designated by a large cairn off to the right at 6,593 feet. This makes Mt. LeConte the tallest mountain in the Eastern United States, rising 5301 feet from its base near Gatlinburg.


  1. Larry Matthews
    March 1, 2018 / 10:47 pm

    There is an entire chapter on Alum Cave in my book "Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains". Has some interesting old stories you might enjoy.Larry E. MatthewsNSS #6792-F

  2. March 15, 2019 / 12:27 pm

    Been there several times, love the trail all the way up to Le Conte

  3. March 15, 2019 / 1:06 pm

    Check out the chapter on Alum Cave in “Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains”. It has some great historical information on Alum Cave. Yes, it really was mined for Alum, during the Civil War.

    • March 15, 2019 / 4:41 pm

      According to the geologist who studied the site (with a permit, of course) when you dig down into the dirt you find really big crystals of alum.

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