Your Guide to Mount LeConte in the Smoky Mountains
Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains, and it offers some of the most incredible views! Visitors love making the trek to the summit of Mt. LeConte and taking in the beautiful sights. To help you plan your trip to the top of this peak, we’ve put together a complete guide to everything you need to know about Mount LeConte.
About Mount LeConte
Mount LeConte stands at 6,593 feet tall and is the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, behind Clingmans Dome and Mount Guyot. Mt. LeConte has 4 subpeaks that are above 6,000 feet: West Point, High Top, Cliff Top and Myrtle Point. Myrtle Point is known for offering panoramic views and is the best place to catch a Smoky Mountain sunrise! Cliff Top, on the other hand, is the best spot to catch a Smoky Mountain sunset.
How to Get There
To get to Mount LeConte, you’ll have to be prepared for a hike. There are 5 different trails you can take to get to the summit, all of which are over 10 miles roundtrip. Here’s more information about the trails:
Alum Cave Trail
The Alum Cave Trail is the shortest, yet steepest, trail that takes you to Mt. LeConte. Although it’s strenuous as you go up on your way there, it makes for an easier hike back down the mountain. At the lower portion of the trail, you’ll see Arch Rock, Inspiration Point and the Alum Cave Bluffs. You’ll reach Mount LeConte at about 5.5 miles into the trail.
The Boulevard Trail
The Boulevard Trail is about an 8-mile hike to Mt. LeConte. It’s a rolling trail that follows a narrow ridge with forested slopes on both sides. You’ll have a total elevation gain of about 3,000 feet! To get to the trailhead, you’ll follow the Appalachian Trail from the Newfound Gap parking lot for about 2.7 miles, where you’ll turn left onto the Boulevard Trail. The trail mostly follows the ridgeline of the mountain, meaning you’ll have stunning lookout areas along the way. This is the only trail of the 5 that passes over the true mountain summit, High Top!
The roundtrip distance for the hike to Mount LeConte via the Bullhead Trail is about 14.4 miles. The Bullhead Trail now shares a trailhead with Rainbow Falls. You’ll park at the Rainbow Falls trailhead, then find the gate just before the parking lot entrance, which is where the Bullhead Trail starts. Technically, for about .4 miles, you’ll be hiking the Old Sugarlands Trail before hanging a left onto the actual Bullhead Trail. This hike provides a taste of backcountry solitude and gorgeous views. You’ll pass several rock cliff faces, two small caves, The Pulpit, Balsam Point and more. After about 7.2 miles, you’ll reach the summit of Mt. LeConte.
Rainbow Falls Trail
If you’re hoping to see a gorgeous waterfall along your hike, this is the trail for you. This challenging 13.8-mile hike features an elevation gain of 3,993, but every step is worth it. You’ll get to pass by the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies when you hike the Rainbow Falls Trail! Rainbow Falls is an 80-foot-high waterfall. On sunny afternoons, a rainbow that’s produced by the mist can be seen. About 4 miles past the waterfall, you’ll reach the summit of Mt. LeConte. Although this trail is considered the most strenuous hike to Mount LeConte, its shadier pathways do make it slightly cooler during the summer than the other 4 trails.
Trillium Gap Trail
The Trillium Gap Trail to Mount LeConte is just under 14 miles roundtrip. This trail travels through an old-growth forest, and at about 1.3 miles, you’ll reach Grotto Falls. The trail actually runs behind the 25-foot waterfall! As you continue your hike, don’t be surprised if you pass by llamas. The llamas are used to carry supplies to the LeConte Lodge. At about 6.6 miles, this trail dead-ends into the Rainbow Falls Trail. To get to the summit, you’ll hike another 0.3 miles. You’ll know you’ve reached the highest point when you reach the large cairn that’s just off the main trail to your right.
The LeConte Lodge provides hikers a place to rest overnight while enjoying views of the Smoky Mountains. It sits at about 6,400 feet high, which makes it the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States! Like Mt. LeConte, the lodge is only accessible by hiking. Guests can choose from cozy one-room cabins or one of the three multi-room lodges. The lodge is rustic in appearance, but it does offer amenities such as flush toilets, lines, propane heaters, kerosene lanterns, a wash basin and more. If you choose to spend the night at LeConte Lodge when you hike to Mount LeConte, you can catch both a Smoky Mountain sunset and sunrise! Nothing compares to these breathtaking views.
If you love Mount LeConte, you’ll love some of the other popular peaks in the Smoky Mountains! For more information, read our guide to the top 5 peaks in the Smokies.