Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alum Cave Bluff Trail 7/18/12

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I have driven by the parking area for the Alum Cave Bluff trail many times and remarked at the crowd.  The road that crosses the Smoky Mountains from Cherokee, NC to Pigeon Forge, TN passes the trailhead. At times I have slowed down through the area on US 441 because of the people crossing over the road, after parking wherever they could find an empty spot. My wife and I decided to hike the trail today for the first time.

We arrived at the trailhead at 8:35 am, and only one parking spot was still open.

 Some of the cars belong to overnight hikers that stayed the night at LeConte Lodge, and a portion were there early because of the immense popularity of this trail. During summer months I suggest getting an early start, if for no other reason to get a decent parking spot where you won’t worry about your car while you are gone.

The first portion of the trail is relatively flat, and it begins by crossing over Alum Cave Creek. The trail is covered in roots and stones in places, but it’s in good shape. You will have numerous photo ops of the creek along this section.



Just an observation, it's interesting how different perspectives can add so much more to a scene. As we walked along the first section of the trail, a bird hopped across a flat boulder, near the water's edge. I thought to myself, this is the first animal we have come across. My wife said, that bird looks pregnant. That's a detail I missed. 

Arch Rock is at the 1.4 mile mark. You will climb steps through an opening in the rock, with steel cables to hold on to.

Just past the two mile mark you’ll see beautiful scenery as the elevation gets higher. This section has some uphill portions, but nothing too strenuous.


Eye of the needle

The last ¼ mile has a few steep portions, but you are almost there.

It isn’t actually a cave, but it provides good shelter if you get caught out in the rain. I have read that during winter months icicles fall from high, making a treacherous walk through this section.

 Keep following the trail for another 3.2 miles to the LeConte Lodge, which canonly  be reached by hiking from your choice of five different trails. Overnight accommodations are available with advance reservations at the lodge. On my to-do list is a hike to the lodge, overnight stay, and sunrise photos at nearby Myrtle Point before hiking back down.

Our hike, which included numerous stops for photos and covered 4.6 miles round trip, took three hours.