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10Explores: Mount LeConte

No matter which trail you take to the Great Smoky Mountains' third-highest peak, the views at the top are worth the strenuous hike up.

Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park — Reaching 6,593 feet above the Great Smoky Mountains' foggy foothills, Mount LeConte is a popular trail with adventurous hikers looking for a challenge. 

LeConte is the national park's third highest peak behind No. 1 Clingmans Dome (6,643 feet) and No. 2 Mount Guyot (6,621 feet).

There are five routes to the summit. Alum Cave Trail is the most popular at 11 miles roundtrip. 

Near Gatlinburg and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail is just under 14 miles roundtrip, Trillium Gap Trail is 14 miles roundtrip and Bullhead Trail is just over 14 miles roundtrip.

Starting on the Appalachian Trail, off the Newfound Gap parking lot, the Boulevard Trail is just over 15.5 miles roundtrip. 

No matter which of the five trails you choose, the hike to the top is considered strenuous for the elevation gain and distance.

Just below the summit, you'll reach LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States and the only lodging offered in the national park. It's very popular, and you'll need to make reservations at least a couple of months in advance to stay. 

Hiking into LeConte Lodge from the trail junction:

Aside from Mount LeConte's 6,593-foot peak, it also has four popular viewpoints called West Point, High Top, Cliff Top and Myrtle Point.

Hiking to Myrtle Point from LeConte Lodge:

Some tips before you visit:

  • Let someone know where you plan to hike, when you plan to be back, what clothes you are wearing and what your car looks like.
  • Wear sunscreen and bug spray.
  • Dress in layers. It is significantly colder in higher elevations.
  • Pack plenty of water and snacks.
  • Trekking poles are recommended.
  • Take a light source with you (preferably not your phone). The park said the number one reason people have to get rescued in the park is not bringing a flashlight or headlamp.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and pack rain gear.
  • Pets are not allowed on the trail.
  • Be courteous to other park visitors.
  • Leave the plants and wildlife alone.
  • Have a backup plan if the trail is closed or too busy.
  • Check on road closures at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps.
  • Make sure to have a parking tag.

Before You Leave, Check This Out