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Mount LeConte is the third tallest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains. Many people enjoy hiking to the summit and staying in LeConte Lodge, a small gathering of cabins you can rent. If you stay more than a few days, you will probably eat the food the lodge prepares. But there aren’t roads to get to the top, so how do they get their supplies? Llamas! Learn all about the llamas that take supplies to the summit of Mount LeConte below:
Llamas Taking Supplies to Mount LeConte
There are several ways you can reach the top of the mountain, but they are only on hiking trails. There aren’t any roads to get to the lodge, so the llamas are used to bring supplies up and waste down. Horses were used to bring supplies for a long time, but they had a hard time on the rocky, steep trail. LeConte Lodge switched to llamas in 1986 and have been using them ever since.
Llamas have been used as pack animals for about 5,000 years. They can carry up to 30 percent of their body weight. These animals have leathery pads on their feet that grip onto surfaces, making it easy for them to travel up rocky terrain.
Before they hike up the mountain, the llamas eat alfalfa cubes to get ready for their journey. Packs are filled with fresh linens and food. Trillium Gap Trail is used because it is considered the easiest trail to get to the summit. The llamas make this trek three times a week, usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. They should be at the trail around 6 to 6:30 am and start traveling around 7:30 am. They must travel 6.7 miles one way, and it takes them about 4 hours. Llamas are led by a llama wrangler. The animals are connected with rope at the bridles. They stop at creeks to let them drink and take a break.
Once the llamas reach the summit, the crew from LeConte Lodge comes out and helps unpack their bags. Then, they get lunch and pancakes as a snack. Then, the packs are filled with dirty linens and garbage to be taken back down.
Other Trails to Reach the Summit
Like we said before, there are multiple hiking trails that will get you to the top of the mountain. Here are all the trails you can use to reach Mount LeConte:
Trillium Gap Trail
Of course, Trillium Gap Trail is the trail the llamas used to reach the top. It is about 14 miles roundtrip, and it is the least steep out of all of the trails. You’ll pass Grotto Falls and possibly see the llamas if you’re on the trail at the same time!
Alum Cave Trail
The most popular trail used to reach the summit is Alum Cave Trail. It is 11 miles roundtrip, and you’ll see all kinds of cool features along the way. There’s Arch Rock and Alum Cave bluffs.
The Boulevard Trail is an 8 mile roundtrip hiking trail. It follows a narrow ridge with forests on either side of the trail on steep slopes.
Bullhead Trail actually shares a trailhead with Rainbow Falls, and it is 14.4 miles roundtrip. It’s a scenic trail to get to the summit of Mount LeConte, and some of the features you can see include rock cliff faces, two small caves, and The Pulpit.
Rainbow Falls Trail
Rainbow Falls is a challenging hike at 13.8 miles roundtrip. You’ll get to pass by Rainbow Falls, the tallest single-drop waterfall in the national park. It is more shaded than other trails, so it makes it cooler during the summer.
Now you know all about the llamas that bring supplies to Mount LeConte. Wondering what else you can learn? Find out more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!