Mt. LeConte, 2017

Trail:  Alum Cave

Trip # 27 – November 9 – 22, 2017

  • Trail: Alum Cave Trail
  • Hiking Time Going Up: 3 hours 7 minutes
  • Hiking Time Coming Down: 2 hours 15 minutes

This year we decided to hike up and down Alum Cave Trail. Due to trail closures, we haven’t gotten to hike this trail many times in the past few years. We got on the trail a little later than usual (around 11 am). It was very foggy with a heavy mist — just enough to get soaked.

Hurricane Irma had come through the Smokys a few weeks earlier and we found a lot of damage. There were lots of trees that had been blown over and these trees snapped other trees as they fell. Just from what we could see from the trail, there must have been over 30 downed trees. Crews had done a great job, however, on getting the trees cut away and the trail reopened.

Our hike up was a steady slog through the mist. There were no views through the fog.

At the top, our cabin was warm from the lp heater and we quickly changed into dry clothes and went to the dinning hall to get coffee and hot chocolate.

Friday was a beautiful day. We had breakfast and then walked out to Myrtle Point. It was warm on the rocks and a bit out of the wind. We also walked down Rainbow Falls trail to the Bullhead Junction. Our goal was to see if we could get part of the way down the Bullhead to see the fire damage from last year but we couldn’t get past the trail junction. Then, we hiked the loop to Chimney Tops.  It was beginning to get crowded on the rock face so we didn’t stay for the sunset.

We got on the trail early Saturday. It was game day after all. We made it home in plenty of time before the 3:30 kickoff of the Clemson game.

Mt. LeConte Lodge

Alum Cave Trail

Taking advantage of the good weather and lower temperatures, we decided to do a day hike up and down Alum Cave Trail on Mt. LeConte. We left early enough to get a parking space in what is usually a very crowded parking lot at the trailhead. We lucked up and there were still a few spaces available.

The trail has been closed on weekdays all summer. Crews from the “Trails Forever Program” has been hard at work building stairs, water bars, and erosion control. The work completed so far was impressive. The first mile of the trail had been leveled and smoothed out with several water bars to divert rain water away from the trail. The picture to the right shows one of two rocked ditches. Of course, all of the rock used was harvested with hand tools from the site. I think they rigged pulleys to actually move the rocks that are too big for one person to pick up.

A bolder pile was replaced by rock stairs. Between the water bars and new stairs, the vegetation had been cut way back off the trail. Rocks and boulders had been smashed to make a gravel like substance that covered where they had scraped and smoothed the trail.




The biggest change was Arch Rock. The workers had smoothed and leveled the rocks at the bottom of the stairs. The staircase itself had been re-routed giving more headroom. They actually put more steps into the same space that made it a little easier to climb. At the top of staircase, the zagged rocks had been chiseled away to make a smooth walking path. Previously, this spot had been slippery and dangerous even in the best of weather. The work is still in progress, but what has been done so far at Arch Rock is a welcome change.

Below are some pictures we took along the way.  Of course, I rarely post without adding a few pictures of wildflowers …

Trails Forever Program … at work on Alum Cave Trail.