Route: Mt Le Conte (TN)

Tennessee, US

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.).

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.