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Alum Cave - Cliff Top Out and Back

 4.8 (141)


10.7 Miles 17.3 Kilometers

2,773' 845 m


-2,773' -845 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (14°)

6,540' 1,993 m


3,856' 1,175 m


Shared By Ramoun Cabuhay


Minor Issues 37 days ago
Some Mud, Icy - Watch out for large chunks of ice falling off Alum Cave Bluff onto the trail. One log bridge was icy. History

Getting forecast...

A classic hike in the smokies with excellent views, log bridges, and a giant bluff.

Ramoun Cabuhay

Dogs No Dogs

Features Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers

Family Friendly A beautiful trail with lots of scenery and excellent views.


In order to reach Mt. LeConte, visitors can expect to hike ~5.5 miles (one way) with over 2,700 feet in elevation gain. Proper footwear is recommended as, although the trail is fairly well made, certain sections can become icy and slippery depending on weather and time of the year. Luckily, recent trail restorations have made the trail a bit wider and easier to travel. The trail is fairly gradual with minimal steep sections, although proper footwear is recommended.


Alum Cave Trail starts out fairly easy and gradual, running parallel to Alum Cave Creek for about a mile. It then switches on to Styx Branch, eventually leading to Arch Rock. Arch Rock was formed by the freezing and thawing of water, causing the softer rock under the arch to be eroded away. Make your way across the bridge and up the steps that go through the arch.

Continue on the trail for less than a mile, and you'll reach inspiration point, which boasts amazing views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge to the west, and Myrtle Point on Mt. LeConte towards the northeast. On a nice day, you may be able to see The Eye of the Needle, a hole atop Little Duck Hawk Ridge.

Continue on the trail until about 2.2 miles from the trailhead, and you'll encounter Alum Cave, for which the trail is named. Alum Cave is actually not a cave, but a bluff named after the the Alum deposits found on the walls of the "cave." The ground here can be fairly loose and slippery, especially during periods of rain. Also, be cautious of falling icicles from the top of the bluff.

Follow along the walls of the bluff and follow the sign to continue on the trail. At approximately 2.6 miles, you'll reach Gracie's Pulpit, which marks the halfway point of the trail.

Continuing on, you'll pass through ledges with cable hand holds. Certain parts have small waterfalls that can become icy and slippery during colder seasons so be careful on the ledges! The last ledge passes just under Cliff Top, and the trail ends at Rainbow Falls Trail.

For the best views of the Smokies from the lodge, check out Myrtle Point and Cliff Top. Myrtle Point offers nearly 360-degree views, and Cliff Top offers the best views of the sunset.

Flora & Fauna

The first mile or so leading up to Arch Rock passes through a large number of rhododendron. One may or may not encounter black bears at the top around LeConte Lodge, and peregrine falcons may also be spotted from Inspiration Point and other viewpoints along the trail.


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Your Check-Ins


Jul 5, 2019
Katie Rupert
Scarlett’s first hike to leconte 5mi
Dec 18, 2018
Lauren Sully
Beautiful trail. I can see why it’s one of the favorites in the parks. Follows a river for most of the time, plenty of views, and the bluff was gre… 5.3mi
Nov 28, 2018
Erika Chan
Nov 20, 2018
billy robinson
dithered at the lodge too long, had to hurry down before dark. the greatest hike of my life! all conditions mild. so beautiful.
Nov 13, 2018
Tim Redel
To Alum Cave and back. 5.2mi
Nov 11, 2018
Nick Moloney
very fun! glad we started early. the crowds definitely picked up in the afternoon.
Nov 11, 2018
Frank Sweeney
37 degrees
Nov 4, 2018
Faith Gaddie

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 141 votes


  4.8 from 141 votes
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