Mt. Leconte is one of the highest peaks in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. It is also home to the unique and famous mountain top destination of LeConte Lodge, were you can spend the night near the peak at 6600 ft and enjoy heated cabins and hot food. The Lodge was established as a retreat in the 1920’s, and hikers have enjoyed the destination ever since.
There are no roads up to the Lodge at the peak of Mt. LeConte. If you are lucky enough to get reservations to stay at the lodge, the only way to reach the destination is to hike one of the five trails up the mountain. Supplies to the Lodge are provided by, no lie, a train of llamas that makes the trip up and back three times a week, and a helicopter drop once a year. (Check out the website for more details.)
Naturally, Kevin and I decided to make the trip to the top of Mt. LeConte. We chose the very popular and scenic Alum Cave Bluff Trail, which is the shortest but steepest of the five trails at 5.5 miles long.
Since the smokies are a good 4 to 5 hr drive for us, we took a long weekend to get the most out of the trip. Along the way we stopped to visit the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley NC, and we camped the night before the hike on top of Mt. Balsam, which is about an hour away from the base of the trail. And because we are compelled to stop at any site that is connected with hydropower, we visited Mingus Mill, a restored and fully functioning historic grist mill:
Edit 09/2013: Back in 2008, I didn’t have support for image slideshows. Also, I basically only had thumbnails posted in the original post. I’ve edited so the images are larger and easier to see, and you can now click to get a larger image, and scroll through each section as a slideshow. The images are displayed more attractively now and are much easier to view. Much better.
Wheels Through Time motorcycle Museum – Maggie Valley, NC* – Sept. 18, 2008
*The Museum is scheduled to move to Arizona.
Camping on Balsam Mountain – Blue Ridge Parkway, NC – Sept. 18, 2008
Mingus Mill – Great Smokey Mountains National Park, NC – Sept. 19, 2008
Mt. LeConte – Alum Cave Bluff Trail – Great Smokey Mountains National Park, TN – Sept. 19, 2008
If you like to hike at all, this is a must-do trip. We loved it, and were fortunate to have beautiful weather. (Although its always cool or cold up top. I think the temperature never reaches above 75° F or some such, and it was in the 40s or below at night, even in the summer). I hope we will do this again sometime.