Route: Mt Le Conte (TN)

Location
Tennessee, US
Description

Mount Le Conte (or LeConte) is a mountain in Sevier County, Tennessee located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At 6,593 ft (2,010 m) it is the third highest peak in the national park, behind Clingmans Dome (6,643 ft, 2,024 m) and Mount Guyot (6,621 ft, 2,018 m). It is also the highest peak that is completely within Tennessee. However, from its immediate base to its summit, Mount Le Conte is one of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountains rising 5,301 ft (1,616 m) from its base, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee (1,292 ft/394 m).

There are four subpeaks above 6,000 ft on the mountain (referred to as the LeConte massif): West Point (6,344 ft/1,934 m), High Top (6,593 ft/2,010 m), Cliff Tops (6,555 ft/1,998 m), and Myrtle Point (6,200 ft/1,890 m). In addition, Balsam Point (5,840+ ft/1,780+ m) serves as the dramatic west end of the massif. Additionally, the mountain is notable for having the highest inn providing lodging for visitors in the Eastern United States.

A couple people have submitted times for up & down the Alum Cave Trail from the TH off Hwy 441.  However, there has not been agreement on where the turn-around point is, and indeed there are at least a couple different Strava segments turning around (or ending, for the ascent only) at different points.  For FKT purposes, the route is from the TH to the true summit (High Top, 6593'), as is common practice for virtually all mountain FKTs.  The FKT aspirant will want to be familiar with the maze of trails in the area of the Le Conte Lodge and summit.  People can consult Strava for times on other segments utilizing the Alum Cave Trail, such as ending at the Lodge, or at various trail junctions.  Two of the faster round trip times are Alex Garcia's 1h27m49s (3/24/2017) to a trail junction in the saddle between summits, and Steve Matthews' 1h26m3s (9/22/2019) to a different trail junction about 75m short of Alex's turn-around (about 100m past the Lodge).

The Tour Le Conte Challenge involves hiking all 5 trails leading to the LeConte Lodge within a 24-hour period, and the challenge also incorporates a 6th trail (Brushy Mtn.)  This has it's own webpage:  http://lecontelog.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-tour-de-le-conte-all-6-trails-in-day.html

The Star of LeConte is similar to the Tour of LeConte, but it travels both directions on all six LeConte approach trails (Bullhead/Old Sugarlands, Rainbow Falls, Trillium Gap, Brushy Mountain/Porters Creek, Alum Cave, Boulavard/AT) and does not use a car shuttle. The turnarounds for each out and back is the top of the steps in front of the LeConte Lodge and the trail sign at the road access for each trail(Cherokee Orchard Rd, Greenbrier Rd/Porters Creek Scenic Loop, Alum Cave parking lot, and Newfound Gap parking lot). The entire length of Trillium Gap Trail should be traversed instead of turning around at Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The trails should be ordered in such a way as no car is needed to connect parts of the route. 88 miles / 22700' vertical.

For the Vertical Mile (out & back) the following "rules" have been proposed by Christopher Hanlon: 1) Start anywhere on River Road in Gatlinburg north of LeConte Creek. This ensures you stay below 1313' MSL and gain a vertical mile to the summit.  2) Dip your hand or foot in the river and start your watch. 3) Run to the summit of Mount LeConte (High Top at 6593') and back via any route of your choosing. 4) Stop your watch when you touch the river again at the bottom.
 

A few other routes & FKTs have been discussed:

Dave Worth (3/13/2013):

I don't know if this is necessarily an FKT, but I did LeConte last summer. I went up Rainbow Falls to the summit (not the lodge), and came down Bull Head Trail back to the parking lot.

Total time was 4:42:13

TH to summit via Rainbow Falls: 2:54:08
Summit to TH via Bull Head: 01:48:05
Total Elevation Gain: 4783'
Total Distance RT: 14.07 mi
Device used: Garmin Forerunner 305 and Garmin c60x(?)

I wasn't flying, I stopped to take in the views and get some pics on the way up and down. Awesome trail, and some amazing scenes on the way up and down. Too bad that the summit is not open to view the surroundings, but at least there's some good views along the way!

 

Evan Hone (6/29/2013):

I am out here in on vacation from Cali and have run Leconte a few times this past week. This morning I started at the Rainbow Falls parking lot and ran up to the Leconte lodge and back down to the Rainbow Falls parking lot in 2 hours and 17 minutes. It was super muddy from all the rain this past week and I was not in a racing mindset. Anyways I think this time is super soft and think I could get it around the 2 hour mark if conditions were better and I decided to go for it. I also did not bring any food or water with me this morning. This is a beautiful trail and wish I had more time to explore the amazing TN mountains.

 

GPS Track

Comments

Last week I was able to set the new record on the Tour. I followed the path set by the previous record holder, Dave Worth who set the 10:03:41 record in 2011. For anyone interested in attempting to break the record, I ask that you follow this path: Start at Rainbow Falls Trailhead and complete the first ascent, then descend via Trillium Gap and return to the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. Then take Bull Head and complete the second ascent, but cut off just shy of the summit to descend Alum Cave Trail. Traverse from Alum Cave Trailhead (HWY441) to Newfound Gap by car. Then begin the third ascent via the Northbound AT to the Boulevard Trail and on to the top. Descend again the Trillium Gap Trail and then down Brushy Mountain and finally Porter's Creek Trail. Finish at the gate at the Porter's Creek Trailhead. I think this is probably the easiest way to complete all six trails anyway, but I thought it would be helpful to clarify the route. Also, let me know if you are interested in going for it! I'd love to support any future attempts!

Hey Luke, great work on the tour! My brother and I have been projecting Leconte to find a route that covers all six and just came across your FKT. Early this year we attempted a route that started at Newfound and ended at Porter with no car shuttle along the way (required out-and-backing Alum and the lower section of Trillium). I'm assuming that you submitted as "supported" because of the car shuttle on the 441 section? If the 441 section was covered on foot (and no other support was received) would that be the way to complete the Tour "unsupported"?

Tour de LeConte

Linton Kerr and Melanie Salas will be making an attempt on Saturday, June 13th for the mixed gender FKT.

We will be doing the route Luke did, however, we will hit High Top each summit and will also hit Cliff Top and Myrtle Point once each, which are the two accessible sub peaks of the LeConte Massive.

Update: Linton Kerr did successfully complete the Tour de LeConte  (aka The LeConte Challenge). Melanie Salas had to quit due to heat exhaustion.