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One of the most popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has received a major facelift! After almost two years of work, the newly restored Alum Cave Trail is ready to once again receive thousands of hikers. Since May, the Alum Cave Trail has been closed from Monday – Thursday, but beginning on November 17, the revitalized trail will be open all week long. Read on for a look at all of the improvements made to Alum Cave Trail.
Changes to the Alum Cave Trail
The restoration of the Alum Cave Trail was completed by the Trails Forever Crew, a program funded by the Friends of the Smokies charity. Both professionals and volunteers worked together to make the trail safer and more accessible. Here are some of the important changes made to the Alum Cave Trail in the past two years:
- To solve the trail’s erosion problems, new stone channels were installed to help drain the path when it rains.
- Rocks and roots were removed to make the trail much smoother and easier to hike.
- The steepest and most ice-prone areas of the trail were outfitted with new cables, which act as banisters to help hikers maintain their footing.
- New stone steps were built at the Arch Rock section of the trail. While the old steps forced hikers to duck down while walking, the redesigned steps allow visitors to stay upright as they pass through. The addition of side-stones to the steps will prevent rain from washing out the ground between the steps, and should help the stonework last for the next century.
- Bridges along the trail were rebuilt to improve safety. The new bridges make it easier for emergency personnel to provide assistance if a hiker is injured.
To see these changes for yourself, check out the video below from local NBC affiliate WBIR:
Highlights of the Alum Cave Trail
If you’ve never hiked the Alum Cave Trail before, now is a great time to explore this beautiful route through the Smokies! Considered a moderately difficult hike, the Alum Cave Trail is a 5.5 mile round trip journey from Newfound Gap Road all the way to the top of Mount LeConte, the highest peak completely within the state of Tennessee. Here is a quick look at some of the highlights of hiking the Alum Cave Trail:
Arch Rock is one of the most iconic landmarks along the Alum Cave Trail. Located about 1.3 miles into the hike, this arch was formed by freezing and thawing. This process eroded the softer rock along the trail to create the dramatic arch hikers enjoy today. As previously noted, the new stone steps added to the trail have made passing through Arch Rock easier and more enjoyable.
Inspiration Point certainly lives up to its name! From this vantage point located roughly 2 miles into the trail, hikers will enjoy breathtaking views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge and Myrtle Point. When you reach Inspiration Point, be sure to look for the “Eye of the Needle”, a hole in the rock close to the top of Little Duck Hawk Ridge. This section of the Alum Cave Trail is also known for its peregrine falcons, which are sometimes called duck hawks.
At 2.2 miles from the trailhead, hikers will find the famous Alum Cave. Despite its name, Alum Cave isn’t actually a cave – it is a concave bluff. At 500 feet wide and 80 feet high, Alum Cave is a truly impressive sight. From 1838 – 1854, the Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company mined epsom salt from Alum Cave. This product was used by Smoky Mountain residents to give homemade clothing a reddish brown color. During the Civil War, the Confederate Army used saltpeter from Alum Cave to make gunpowder.
To learn about everything to see and do in the Smokies, check out our guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!