Hiking Mt. LeConte offers so many ways to get in touch with nature and it’s an endeavor for those with some stamina and climbing skill. The mountain is located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is 6,593 ft. high. There are five main trails leading up to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Day hikers (those not staying overnight) can access these services at the lodge. Day hikers may purchase a sack lunch, hot beverages and other items and may eat them in the lodge’s dining room.
Please Note: AMEX is not accepted at the lodge. The 2013 season runs from Monday, March 25 through Tuesday, November 26. As of this writing the lodge’s website said it was 90% full for the season. The lodge’s reservation page provides more information. The lodge is located at 6400 ft.; just below the summit. Hikers report that the cabins are comfortable and offer a unique experience as staying overnight on the mountain allows people to immerse themselves into the rhythms of the area. Meals are eaten dining room style. Linens, blankets and beds with toasty warm Hudson Bay blankets are provided. There is no vehicle traffic on the mountain; the lodge is only accessible via hiking.
The Mt. LeConte Lodge blog offers a first-hand perspective of life on the mountain. This post was published on 5-25-13 (Saturday during Memorial Day weekend). The author mentions how it was only 44 degrees on May 24, so hikers thinking about traveling to the summit will need to be ready for some pretty cool temperatures even at this time of year.
The lodge offers this page about hiking trails up the mountain and we offer the following synopsis about the trails below (trail lengths are one-way measurements):
Rainbow Falls Trail — 6.6 miles. Hikers like this trail as it offers beautiful views and is a moderately difficult trail to take up the mountain. It does cross LeConte Creek several times. People who have hiked this trail say it can be a somewhat strenuous hike but definitely worth seeing the falls and scenery along the way.
Bullhead Trail — 6.9 miles. Hikers will enjoy more solitude if they use this trail. Many people like to go up the mountain on the Rainbow Falls Trail then back down the Bullhead Trail as they see better scenery going up, and enjoy the quiet going down.
Trillium Gap Trail — 8.9 miles. This trail is the one used by the llama convoys that bring supplies up to the lodge. It offers a more gradual hike than the other trails so it may be worth considering.
Alum Cave Trail — 4.9 miles. This moderately strenuous trail offers several diverse experiences along the way including walking along Alum Cave Creek and ascending stairs built into the middle of Arch Rock. Spring is a great time to travel this trail as it is teeming with wildlife and newly blooming wildflowers. Some hikers have reported that it is less crowded on weekdays.
The Boulevard Trail — 5.4 miles. This trail is known as one of the top 5 best scenic trails in the Smoky Mountains. This time of year the trail should be easier to hike, but even into March hikers report that they like to use spikes or YakTrax on their shoes to prevent slipping on ice.
Download your free Gatlinburg vacation guide now.