Monte LeConte is the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has 5 trails that lead to the top. This is our second hiked trail to the summit (Alum Cave Trail – hiked in October 2016). We had originally targeted Bullhead Trail for this hike but due to the horrific fire in my beloved Smoky Mountains on November 28, 2016 this trail is closed, as is Chimney Tops Trail. If you have not heard, there was a deliberate fire set on Chimney Tops and burned over 17,000 acres, took 14 lives, displaced and killed thousands of animals and destroyed 2000 bldgs. As sad as this is, the community has rallied to support each other and we noticed beneath the burnt trees, lush green vegetation was already growing.
We decided to camp at the same campground and campsite we had used in October 2016. It was AMAZING with a trout stream next to our campsite, so loud we could hardly hear each other talk.
Our time for departure was 4:30 am, so bright and early we were up, had breakfast and ready to roll. Our drive to the trailhead was on the Gatlinburg side of the park and we were staying on the Cherokee side so we had a 1.5 hr drive with some heavy fog. As we were driving through the park we saw a small black bear on the side of the road (wonder where big mama was).
Pulling into the parking lot we saw the llama train getting loaded and I wanted to get in front of them if possible, so we scrambled fast and headed up the trail. By the way, there is a lodge at the top of Monte LeConte (it’s very hard to get reservations) and the supplies are delivered via llamas.
Approx 1.4 miles you will reach Grotto Falls, which is the only falls in the park you can walk behind. We had intended to get a good shot onthe way down, but as you see that didn’t happen. We hit the junction of Brushy Mountain Trail at the 3 mile mark and made the decision to take the quick detour which added .6 miles there and back, and of course allowed the llamas to get in front of us. The Brushy Mountain Trail was an unusual trail with tons of rocks and lots of mud. The views were nice but the mud was very deep (could be due to all the rain the day before).
Once we were back on the Trillium Gap Trail, we had to pass the llamas (which I was not to sure about since I had heard they spit) but the wrangler was very nice and told us exactly when to pass and how. The trail was very narrow so we held onto trees and branches on the side of the hill to get around the llamas and as you can guess, I almost slide into one. He was none to happy and started making a strange noise. Some of them had on masks; I think they were the spitters.
The hike was a little more strenuous than the Alum Cave Trail, but once we were at the top we had a wonderful view, met a nice group of younger people from Cold Spring, KY (I wondered if they knew my son, he lives in the area).
Five Trails to Mount LeConte:
Alum Cave Trail, Trillium Gap Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, Bull Head Trail, The Boulevard Trail
Roundtrip Length including Brushy Mt. Trail 14 Miles
Highest Elevation 6593
Total Elevation Gain 3401
Trail Rating Strenuous