viewing spectacular Smoky Mountain sunrises and sunsets, there
is no better place than Mt. LeConte. Countless visitors have
huddled together to view the sunrise from Myrtle Point on
the eastern side, and hurried to see the sun set over Clingman's
Dome from Clifftops on the western flank.
idea for a lodge on top of Mt. LeConte to
accommodate visitors dates hack to 1925, when Paul Adams established
a permanent camp for the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation
Association, an organization formed to seek national park
status for the Great Smokies. Many prominent visitors spent
the night at the early tent camp as guests of the Association
in order to win their support for a park in the Southern Appalachians.
Where else could you provide a better grandstand view of the
Smokies than from the summit of Mt. LeConte?
LeConte Lodge is the highest inn providing lodging for visitors
in the East. Although LeConte is the third highest mountain
in the Park at 6,595 feet, it is actually the "tallest"
mountain in the Eastern United States, rising over a vertical
mile from Gatlinburg. Rustic accommodations include the lodge,
a dining hail, and a cluster of small cabins equipped with
double-bunk beds. Dinner at the dining hall is served at 6
p.m., breakfast at 8 am. A packtrain
of llamas brings food, bed linens, and other supplies
to and from the Lodge three times a week. These animals do
not damage these heavily used trails as much as horses.
Lodge can accommodate an average of 45 guests per night, and
normally fills up a year in advance. Reservations are required
for the lodge and for the 12-man lean-to shelter (with bear-proof
chain link fence across the opening) near the lodge. There
is no charge for staying at the shelter, but reservations
are required through the Park's backcountry office.
to LeConte: More than 10,000 hikers use the trails
to LeConte each year. Five major trails drape the mountain.
The shortest (5 miles one-way) and most popular is the Alum
Cave Bluffs Trail, without a doubt the most spectacular trail
in the whole Park!
The longest trail (but with the least
elevation gain) is the Boulevard Trail at 8 miles. Many visitors
with two cars go up the Boulevard Trail and come down Alum
Cave Bluffs. Rainbow Falls Trail is 6.5 miles and Bullhead
7 miles. These two trails can he used as a "loop"
beginning at the same trailhead in Cherokee Orchard near Gatlinburg.
The Trillium Gap Trail, which passes by Grotto Falls, comes
up the mountain from the Greenbrier area and is 8 miles, providing
spectacular views of LeConte from Brushy Mountain
For an interesting account about hiking
the trails of LeConte, be sure to visit Ed Wright's website
at www.mtleconte.com. Since retiring in 1991, Ed hikes LeConte
2 to 5 times a week and works as a Volunteer in the Park (VIP).
He has written a book "1001 Hikes to Mount LeConte and
Counting," which documents his trips and the hikers he
meets along the trails.
What to Bring:
Since your dinner, breakfast, and bed are provided, you can
pack light! Some essentials: light-weight hiking boots, a
small backpack or daypack, flashlight, water, compass, knife,
matches, lunch for the day you go up and a light snack for
the return trip, rain gear (it rains a lot in the Smokies
and even more on LeConte), hat, gloves, washcloth and towel,
toothbrush, soap (you won't need your shampoo--no showers!),
toilet paper, a clean shirt and two pairs of socks (dry socks
will he needed!), and money for a souvenir (you may want to
buy a T-shirt). Other items that will help you enjoy your
trip include: a camera, film, and binoculars (to view the
peregrine falcons nesting the bluffs near the summit). NOTE:
The accommodations are rustic. Flush toilets are available
while the weather permits, but when it gets too cold, you
get to experience the thrill of an outhouse. Kerosene is used
for heat and light, and the only bathing facility is a wash
basin for a sponge bath.
For LeConte Lodge Reservations
or Printed Info: Contact Wilderness Lodging at
865.429.5704 or write to 250 Apple Valley Road, Sevierville,
TN 37862. Reservations are accepted beginning October 1, 2002
for the 2003 season. Currently they are working off a cancellation
waiting list for 2001. The cost is about $80.00 per person,
per night, with no limit on the number of nights.