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5 Special Sights to See Along the Alum Cave Trail

The Alum Cave Trail is one of the most exciting trails you’ll find in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Multiple different spots featuring mountain views and gorgeous geological formations make this a favorite among visitors looking to find the perfect mix of adventure and peace and quiet. Considered to be of moderate difficulty and registering as a 5-mile roundtrip hike to the Alum Cave Bluffs and back, it offers a challenge that includes some of the most rewarding views around! Along the way, you’ll notice some iconic spots you don’t want to miss. Here are 5 special sights to see along the Alum Cave Trail:

1. Alum Cave Bluffs

alum cave bluffsThe views from Alum Cave Bluffs make the trail one of the most popular paths inside the national park! Located on the southern side of the iconic Mt. LeConte, the views from this giant rock outcropping are exactly what many folks visit the Smokies to see. Stand under a giant rock wall, especially if you need a break from the sun, and snap plenty of photos of both the views below and overhanging rocky cliffs full of fascinating features! You’ll even notice a distinct smell that comes from the special combination of minerals that make up the bluffs.

2. The Iconic Log Steps

As you complete your journey to the Alum Cave Bluffs, you’ll finish the last small chunk to the top by climbing some log steps. This wooden log staircase might seem daunting at first as it traverses up a rather steep hill, but you’ll find comfort in the steps being securely positioned in the ground. Take your time as you climb these steps, using a cable beside them to help you maintain your balance, and you’ll be rewarded with the one-of-a-kind views at Alum Cave Bluffs!

3. Arch Rock

Alum Cave Trail bridge covered in snowOne of the first special features you’ll see when you hike the Alum Cave Trail is Arch Rock, a gigantic rock that was formed during the last ice age! Yes, really! You’ll walk across a log footbridge that spans over Alum Cave Creek straight into a 20-foot opening of this monumental slate structure, located about 1.4 miles into the trail. This gap was formed as a result of it repeatedly freezing and thawing over a significant period of time. Travel up some steep steps to make your way through Arch Rock and continue your journey.

4. Inspiration Point

At roughly 2 miles into the trail, after passing through Arch Rock, you’ll take a sharp right turn to reach Inspiration Point, a heath bald with gorgeous views! Enjoy sights of the surrounding mountains, an outcropping of brush known as Huggins Hell and the peaks of Chimney Tops, Sugarland Mountain and Anakeesta Ridge. Inspiration Point is the perfect spot to take a break and rejuvenate the spirit with its spectacular views!

5. Eye of the Needle

view from alum cave bluff to mount leconteFrom Inspiration Point you’ll be able to see the Eye of the Needle! As you look out from this spot, you’ll notice two knife-like rock formations known as Little Duck Hawk Ridge and Big Duck Hawk Ridge. At the top of Little Duck Hawk Ridge is a unique and distinctive gap in the rock formation known as the Eye of the Needle. Snap some photos that you’ll hold onto forever!

Be sure to stop and see these special sights when you take a journey on the Alum Cave Trail! If you choose to continue past the Alum Cave Bluffs for about 2.7 miles, you can reach the summit of Mount LeConte!