Mount LeConte Lodge

Mount LeConte Lodge

For viewing spectacular Smoky Mountain sunrises and sunsets, there is no better place than Mt. LeConte. Countless visitors have joined together to view the sunrise from Myrtle Point on the eastern side, and hurried to see the sun set over Clingmans Dome from Clifftops on the western side. The idea for a lodge on top of Mt. LeConte to accommodate visitors dates back 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 the summit of Mt. LeConte? Today, LeConte Lodge is the highest inn providing lodging for visitors at the mountaintop. 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 hall and a cluster of small cabins equipped with double-bunk beds. Breakfast is served at the dining hall at 8 a.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. A pack of llamas bring food, bed linens and other supplies to and from the LeConte Lodge three times per week. Llamas are used because they don’t damage the trails as much as the horses. Cabins at the LeConte Lodge can accommodate an average of 45 guests per night. The LeConte Lodge is so...
Old Settlers Trail

Old Settlers Trail

One of the most interesting trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is Old Settlers Trail. Its historical OST Trail marker landmarks set it apart from most other trails. It is less rocky and smoother than many other trails. Add to these points its biological diversity and you have three distinguishing features. The trail may be accessed in the Greenbrier area approximately 12.3 miles from Cosby or about 4 miles from Gatlinburg. Or, it may be accessed 1.2 miles up Albright Grove trail, which is about 2.3 miles west of Cosby, Tennessee, on state road 321. At that point turn toward the GSMNP onto Baxter Rd. Drive through a quaint mountain subdivision of cabins to Laurel Springs Road; then turn right and drive a few hundred yards until you see a gated gravel road on the left. Parking is permitted along the road so long as you do not block the gated entrance. Another, lesser known, entrance exists near Steiner Bell Lodge parking lot, which is about 13 miles from Cosby and about 1/2 mile up a narrow driveway leading to the Lodge. Next to the left side of the parking lot the trail begins. It descends about 700 yards down to a marshy area where there is a post-marker. An old cemetery exists beyond the field to the right, up on a hill. But, the trail to OST goes left and leads to another post-marker and Old Settlers Trail – hereafter OST. The following descriptions will take us on a hike east from the Greenbrier area of the GSMNP. This Park entrance is about 4 miles east...
Chimney Tops Trail

Chimney Tops Trail

About the Chimney Tops Trail Although only two miles in length (4 miles round trip), the Great Smoky Mountains National Park trail to Chimney Tops requires strength and caution. Nevertheless, due to the excellent views from this trail, as well as abundant wildflowers, streams and large trees, many feel a hike up to “the chimneys” is well worth the extra effort. Over time, the Chimney Tops trail has become one of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s most popular hiking trails. Chimney Tops Trail Directions To reach the Chimney Tops trailhead from Gatlinburg, take Newfound Gap Road into the park. Newfound Gap Road is the only road which completely traverses the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, linking Cherokee NC to Gatlinburg TN. From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, continue 6.7 miles until you reach the parking lot at the Chimney Tops trailhead. The parking lot and trailhead is located between the lower tunnel and “the loop” on Newfound Gap Road. If traveling from Cherokee to Chimney Tops, take the Newfound Gap Road about 22 miles from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina. Elevation on the Chimney Tops Trail Once at the trailhead, there is plenty of room for parking, but the trail itself is sometimes a bit crowded due to its popularity. A tour bus in the parking lot means more people on the trail, so if you are looking for a back-to-nature experience along this trail, you may enjoy a hike to Chimney Tops during off-season. If so, beware of ice in really cold weather, as the trail is steep, rising 1,300 feet from the trailhead to the chimney-like pinnacles...
Shuckstack Tower

Shuckstack Tower

The historic fire towers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were once used to gain a bird’s eye view of the mountains in order to spot forest fires. Though many of the towers were removed as more modern methods for fire detection were developed, Shuckstack and three other towers remain. These out of the way destinations are well worth the extra effort, and the vistas they provide are by far better than any view available from any roadside overlook. Trail Details Length 6.8 miles roundtrip Difficulty Medium to Strenuous Highlights Excellent views of Fontana Lake and the Smokies Caution Steep terrain can be slick in snow or rain, or on fallen leaves Note Best hiked on a clear day to enjoy the view. Directions Shuckstack is on the North Carolina side of the Park. From Bryson, take NC 28 to Fontana Dam. Start your hike from the north side of the dam. Trail Description Located on Twentymile ridge, the Shuckstack fire tower is just a tenth of a mile from the Appalachian Trail and a mere 3.4 miles from the road. The quickest and easiest way to access the tower is to begin on the north side of Fontana Dam, which is on the North Carolina side of the Park. Please note that the dam is under renovation at this time, and vehicles are prohibited from crossing the dam. Foot traffic across the dam is allowed, however. The section of road you have to walk to reach the trailhead is nice and level, but it will add a little over a mile to the roundtrip distance of the...
Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

The Rainbow Falls Trail is one of several that will take you to the top of Mt. LeConte and is also the oldest or earliest route to LeConte. The trail can be challenging, but also offers an intermediate reward in that it affords the hiker a rest at the beautiful Rainbow Falls. Summary The Rainbow Falls Trail is fairly challenging if completed all the way to Mt LeConte. Allow an hour and a half to Rainbow Falls and four hours to Mt LeConte. Hikers will gain nearly 4,000 feet in elevation by the time they get to Mt. LeConte. Point of Departure Cherokee Orchard Road – Turn at light #8 in Gatlinburg and follow the Airport Road 1 mile out of Gatlinburg into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The name will change from Airport Road to Cherokee Orchard Road. About 2.5 miles after entering the Park, Cherokee Orchard Road approaches the Rainbow Falls parking area. You will find the trail head at one edge of the parking area. Features of Interest Your first reward comes at the 2.8 mile point when you arrive at Rainbow Falls. At the 6.6 mile point you will come upon an Alum Cave Trail junction which leads left 0.1 mile to the LeConte Lodge (the only lodging to be found within the Park), which is 6.7 miles from where you began. Overnights at LeConte Lodge require a reservation, which should be obtained weeks or even months in advance by calling (423) 429-5704. The Rainbow Falls Trail gains nearly four thousand feet in 6.7 miles, making it one of the more uniquely challenging climbs in...