Beck Family

Our family had the opportunity to hike to Mt. LeConte via the Alum Cave Bluffs trail for the second time in 4 years. It was somewhat more difficult as we were all 4 yrs. older and not as fit as the last time. However, we had a great time and it is always worth the hard work once you see the beautiful scenery the mountains have to offer and of course your final destination-the Mt. LeConte Lodge for your sack lunch. It was once again overcast and cloud covered when we arrived at the lodge, but once we had eaten our delicious lunch, the cloud cover gave way to a beautiful blue sky. We walked around the lodge grounds for a short time; some of us sit in the rockers enjoying the fantastic scenery while others went inside the gift area to purchase some T-shirts. After a brief rest, we took off up to the “Cliff Tops.” This was truly awesome and well worth the short hike. It once again revealed clouds that were thick and we had only a limited view;however, within a short time, the clouds cleared again and we were able to get some fantastic pics from this surreal destination. Hopefully next time we can spend the night at the lodge and enjoy a sunset and sunrise!

Mt. LeHope

Hi. I would like to thank you for the awesome experience of hiking Alum Trail last yr. I have hiked Mt. LeConte in the 90’s but this was my true mountain top experience. Sept 01, 2009, I had the right lobe of my lung removed due to a rare bacteria. Due to complications, I had a 2nd surgery in Nov. In very critical condition, Mt. LeConte was my vision to set a goal of my favorite mountain. I spite of all odds, many medications and a faith I could hike it again my dream was fulfilled. Against ALL odds, there was a cancellation last yr. on the very date I had surgery previously. I was at the top of my Mt. LeConte my dream fulfilled in everyway 9/1/2011. Because I made it to the top, it has been a beacon of others who have on the same journey I was on. Hope. Mt. LeConte is more than a physical mountain to is Mt. LeHope!! A vision that came true. I did get to see the other side of the mountain in more ways than imaginable! Thank you so much. I will be back…….

Glenda Coker

Life on LeConte

Published February 11, 2012
By Johnny Molloy – Outdoors Writer – Johnson City Press

Do you love to hike in the Smokies but hate to camp? Then I have the place for you — Mount LeConte Lodge, perched at 6,500 feet atop one of Tennessee’s most notable mountains. And the only way to get there is by foot.

Unlike many of the grand national parks out west, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, or even Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has no lodges or built-in accommodations accessible by automobile. LeConte Lodge came about almost by accident.

What is now the highest lodge east of the Mississippi River started out in 1925 as a collection of tents assembled by the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, a group organized to promote the establishment of the Smokies as a national park. The folks in the association hosted prominent movers and shakers, showing them the wonders of Mount LeConte, including the famous views from Cliff Top at sunset and Myrtle Point at sunrise, attempting to sway them into establishing a national park here.

From these humble beginnings, Mount LeConte Lodge was slowly transformed into an assemblage of cabins, dining facilities and main lodge building primarily by Jack Huff who operated the hostelry along with his wife from 1926 through 1959. Later, ownership of the lodge went through several hands, and is now operated through a lease with the National Park Service.

You can’t mention Jack Huff without relating the famous story about taking his mother to the lodge. Back in 1928, Huff’s mother, after hearing about all these wonderful views from the top of Mount LeConte, wanted to see them for herself. Unfortunately, she couldn’t climb the mountain, so Jack attached leather straps to a wood and wicker chair, then literally carried her up the mountain on his back. Unfortunately for them the all-too-frequent fog and clouds encircled the mountain, preventing Jack’s mother from enjoying a view. Jack carried her back down three days later.

Just as it was in Jack Huff’s day, you must hike to reach the top of Mount LeConte. The shortest distance is 5 miles one way. However, the effort required to reach the lodge only increases the rewards. Apparently hiking to the lodge doesn’t deter visitors from coming. In fact, on Oct. 1 of each year, would-be guests scramble to get on the Internet and book their chosen days. However, persistent hikers can call the LeConte Lodge office, located down in Gatlinburg and get available dates. Others get on a wait list.

I was lucky enough to be invited by a multiple lodge visitor, Susan Range, at the last minute. I had never stayed at the lodge and was excited to experience this mountaintop retreat. We took the Bullhead Trail from just above Gatlinburg, hiking a well-graded path with plenty of views along the way. Down in the lowlands we could see old stone fences from Smoky Mountain pioneers, living at the base of LeConte. We climbed higher up the hardwood slopes, eventually entering the spruce-fir forest reminiscent of those in Maine or Minnesota.

After eight miles of hiking, it was pleasing to see the collection of weathered gray buildings that comprise the lodge. The dark, main lodge building was lit by a kerosene lantern. Yes, there is no electricity up here. And that adds to the rustic charm. Authentic Mount LeConte and Smoky Mountain memorabilia decorated the walls. We checked in and then were led to one of the small cabins. They are cozy one-room affairs with small windows. The wooden buildings have a pair of upper and lower double bunk beds.

The cabins are warmed with wall-mounted propane heaters, for which we would later be grateful. Covered porches with rocking chairs allow you to enjoy the outside. Restrooms are located a short walk from the cabins. Larger groups have a choice of three multi-room lodges that are available.

Rain was falling by the time the dinner bell rang, and overnight guests scurried to the dining room. Mount LeConte has a capacity of 60 guests per night and they all dine together at once, family-style, at big tables, with plates and bowls of food being passed around, all in the dim but friendly glow of the lantern. Lodge personnel provide drinks and such. The food was hearty and we had our fill.

Conversations can get interesting around the dining table, as you get to meet other guests. We sat with a group from North Carolina and a young couple from Nashville. Naturally, hiking and the great outdoors was the primary subject of conversation. The Carolinians chose Mount LeConte Lodge because of the challenging climb to the top. The young couple wanted to vacation with like-minded individuals — the walk to the top and the rustic conditions has a way of putting us outdoorsy types together.

I for one was glad to be in the cabin that night rather than huddling beneath a tarp, as buckets of rain fell for hours. A front was moving through and temperatures were plummeting by breakfast, held at 8 a.m. Coffee and hot chocolate preceded the breakfast of ham, eggs, biscuits and pancakes aplenty.

Hiking was on the agenda that day. Susan and I rambled out to Brushy Mountain, a shoulder of Mount LeConte that presented views of East Tennessee from Gatlinburg at the foot of LeConte to Douglas Lake in the distance and waves of mountains in the yon. Since we were staying two nights, we were provided a hearty sack lunch of chicken salad sandwiches, trail mix and a big ol’ homemade brownie.

The temperatures kept falling through the day as the sky cleared and a front moved through. That evening we made the short walk to Cliff Top to soak in a famous sunset. The wind howled, pushing cold air right through our jackets, but the view was worth it, as Sol descended into a line of ridges to the west.

We then scrambled to the dining hall and enjoyed another meal. Susan and I supped with a whole new set of guests, as most of them stay for just one night. We were amazed with our companions — at our table were guests who came all the way from New Mexico and Minnesota, just to enjoy this Tennessee treasure. The stars lit the way on the walk from the dining hall to our cabin. Our footsteps crackled over the frozen ground. On that winter night the low went to 8 degrees.

Next morning, after another robust breakfast, we rambled back down the mountain. Crisp air hastened our pace, but we stopped to soak in vistas of East Tennessee, brought into focus by the cold front. By noon we were back at the parking lot, our mountaintop experience finished.

Read more:

A Cabin in the Clouds

Hike to this lodge for great views, home cooking, and wilderness all around

by Deborah Huso

At the ripe old age of 2, my daughter, Heidi, was already a veteran day hiker (as long as she could take frequent breaks riding on Dad’s shoulders). So when the idea of an overnight hiking trip crossed our minds, it seemed like something we could actually do. We set our sights on one of my favorite spots in the world, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Searching for a place to stay in the park, my husband, French, and I discovered LeConte Lodge, located on Mount LeConte, just east of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was built in 1926 by Jack Huff, a Gatlinburg mountaineer, eight years before the opening of the national park. The propane-heated cabins, the real beds, the hot meals, and the amazing views all sounded perfect. After talking with the lodge managers, Tim and Lisa Line, we were even more excited. Many families make an annual summer trip there, they told us.

Then came the reality check: the shortest route up the mountain to the lodge, accessible only by foot, is a five-and-a-half-mile trail. In fact, the lodge is so remote that llamas are used to carry in supplies! Tim and Lisa assured us that kids, parents, and grandparents do this hike every year. We flexed our backpack-carrying muscles and reserved a cabin for a weekend in August.
Saturday: The Hike

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast in Gatlinburg, we drive to the parking lot of the Rainbow Falls Trail to wait for A Walk in the Woods, a trail-guide and hiker-shuttle service. The shuttle will take us to the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail for our trek up Mount LeConte. Tomorrow, we’ll come down Rainbow Falls Trail, so we’ll hike a different route each day (shuttle fee from $42 for up to five people; 865-436-8283;

At the trailhead, we strap on our backpacks and set off. The first stretch is a moderate climb, and the path parallels Alum Cave Creek. Heidi, who is crazy about water whether it’s in a bathtub or a lake, asks, “Water, please. Go swimming?” It’s a warm day, so we pull out her rubber clogs and let her wade in the chilly water.

After we’ve hiked about a mile and a half, we come to Arch Rock, a high, narrow rock tunnel. A stone staircase is carved into the trail that passes through it. Heidi is excited to climb the stairs herself, telling us, “Going in the tunnel!”

Soon we reach Inspiration Point and its views of jagged slopes streaked with fog. Blueberry bushes fill the landscape, and the fruit is a welcome snack as we hike on to the Alum Cave Bluffs. These high, jutting ledges form a rain shelter so perfect that moisture never reaches the dusty soil underneath. Even though the Smokies are one of the wettest places in the East, the bluffs stay bone dry.

We have several miles left to go, so we put Heidi in the backpack again and hike steadily for two rainy but peaceful hours. When we reach the summit, we enjoy vistas changing by the second as the Smokies’ signature fog drifts and curls. Soon we’re on a level path a few hundred yards from LeConte Lodge.

As we approach, we meet a young couple with three kids, one an 8-month-old baby, in tow. Tim and Lisa Line were right — LeConte may be near the top of a 6,593-foot mountain, but it is definitely a family destination.

Ten sturdy cabins come into view, all of them overlooking miles of Tennessee foothills. We check into ours (no electricity, but plenty of warm, thick blankets), and then head to the dining hall for hot cocoa. Not long after, the dinner bell rings. The guests, about 60 kids and adults, gather at tables in front of a propane stove for a cozy meal: beef tips in gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn bread, apples, and cookies.

After dinner, French heads up a spur trail to an area known as Cliff Top to watch the sun set. Heidi and I snuggle into the double bed, and soon she’s fast asleep, snoozing right through the grand commotion that occurs outside when a black bear wanders into camp.
Sunday: Down the Mountain

We rise early to get some otherworldly photos of pink sun streaking through fog-swept mountains, and hit the dining hall for pancakes, eggs, grits, Canadian bacon, and biscuits.

After ordering boxed lunches ($9 per box), we start walking down the six-and-a-half-mile Rainbow Falls Trail. We stop to eat on the boulders below the namesake falls, which drop steeply from a rock ledge, creating a magical veil of water. On sunny afternoons, the mist from the 80-foot-high falls produces — you guessed it! — a shimmering rainbow. Some years Mount LeConte receives as much as eight feet of rain, so there is always plenty of mist.

“Ready for the last stretch?” French asks when we’re done eating. He grins and hoists Heidi onto his shoulders. My husband, always happiest in the great outdoors, leaps down the trail into a forest of old-growth trees, lush mosses, and giant glacial boulders.

By the time we reach the parking lot where we left our car the previous day, we’ve been hiking for almost six hours (the descent is quicker for toddler-free families). We’re all ready for warm showers and civilization again.

Heidi and I float in our hotel’s pool for a while, but none of us is quite ready to let the mountain go, so we head over to the Gatlinburg Sky Lift ($12 for adults, $9 for kids ages 3 to 11; 865-436-4307;, a ski lift ride that gives us a panoramic view of Mount LeConte. In the pinkish glow of the setting sun, the mountain rises imposingly over the town. “We just hiked that,” I remind Heidi. “Last night, we stood at the very, very top.”

Five lodges you can’t reach by car

Excerpt from: Five lodges you can’t reach by car

By Katherine Dorsett, CNN
April 19, 2011 1:10 p.m. EDT

LeConte Lodge
Book early at LeConte Lodge. Guests often have to reserve a room at this popular Tennessee getaway up to a year in advance.
The lodge, nestled 6,500 feet atop Mount LeConte, offers breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stunning sunrises and sunsets bookend the days and sometimes visitors will spot black bears roaming nearby.

“LeConte is very rustic and creates an atmosphere of simpler times,” says frequent visitor Tom Collins of Duluth, Georgia.

LeConte bills itself as the perfect getaway from a high-tech world, so don’t expect modern conveniences at this inn. It’s very primitive with a wash basin and bucket for sponge baths, no electricity, no television, kerosene lanterns for light, and propane heaters for warmth. There is one up-to-date luxury: flush toilets.

The only way to reach LeConte is on foot along one of five trails that lead to the inn. The shortest trail is five miles and the longest is eight.

Supplies are brought in via helicopter and llama pack trains since it’s so remote. LeConte can accommodate 60 guests a night in either small personal log cabins or three multiroom lodges.

The staff prepares family-style meals (think meat and potatoes) served in the lodge’s dining room with your choice of coffee, hot chocolate and water. Wine is provided for an additional cost.

The Metcalfe’s Hike to the Lodge on June 17, 2008

On June 17, 2008, Abby and Jackson Metcalfe made their 6th and 4th hikes and overnight stays at LeConte Lodge accompanied by their dad, Ron, of course. When we hit the trail at 8:30 AM, it was a very pleasant 58°. There was some cloud over Mt. LeConte as we started, but most of our hike was in bright sunshine and brilliant blue skies, especially for mid-June.

Between Inspiration Point and Alum Cave Bluff, we had a great view of the Eyes of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge, and could hear a Peregrine Falcon. Abby spotted something atop the ridge that looked out of place, and upon closer inspection we were thrilled to see two falcons perched atop the jagged rock, one above the other. They were so big in size, we thought at first that maybe they were just rocks we hadn’t noticed before. But then we saw one of them move, and we noted on our descent that they were no longer there.

The low humidity and breezy conditions made for very clear views, more like you would expect from late autumn rather than late June. Passing Lu’s Pulpit, we began one of the most scenic parts of the hike, with unbelievable views. Despite some recent showers, there was virtually no water running down the upper parts of Trout Branch, and very little water at the Mossy Drips. We reached the Grassy Slide, 1 mile from the lodge, at 11:53 AM. The West Point peak of Mt. LeConte came into view as we neared the parts of the trail which are carved out of rock. At almost exactly 12:30 PM, we arrived at LeConte Lodge, signed the guestbook, bought our shirts, and went to our cabin to relax.

After supper and around 8:00 PM, we began our short 2/10 mile hike up to Cliff Top to watch the sunset. There were already several people there, but by the time the sun set, it seemed that everyone in camp (and some of those from the shelter) was sitting on the rocks of Cliff Top. We found our spot and watched as the sun set, casting different shadows and glows on the valley below. It seemed that every few minutes, you were looking at a whole different place. The sun got lower and lower, and finally disappeared. And almost in unison, everyone gave a slight gasp, and then applauded.

We started the hike back down the next morning around 9:00. We didn’t walk in full sunlight until we reached the turn at Lu’s Pulpit on the Alum Cave Bluff trail. The temperature on the top of the mountain that morning was 35° and had warmed to 47° by the time we started our descent. We had hidden some drinks under a rock in the cool waters of Alum Cave Creek on the ascent the day before, so we found our drinks and enjoyed them in the trail before arriving to the trail head. This was Abby’s 6th hike, Jackson’s 4th hike and my 13th hike to Mt. LeConte.

Ron P. Metcalfe
Mosheim, Tennessee

Tami Ruckman’s Hike on 8-28-08

It has been a dream of mine to hike LeConte for a long time. My friends Mary and Shannon wanted to come also, and we made reservations almost a year ago. In the past couple of years, all three of us have lost significant amounts of weight. I have lost about 95 pounds, and they have each lost about 80 each. We prepared by working out – walking and biking – and by getting gear together. We came up on August 28, 2008 on the Rainbow Trail after heavy rains. The trail was flooded and we had lots of water to contend with. The trail was incredible – the log bridges, the rapids, and the Rainbow Falls itself are spectacular. The trip was much more difficult than we ever anticipated. It took every ounce of strength I had and more. I still have a lot of weight to lose, but with Mary and Shannons’s help and encouragement, I made it. They even carried my pack for the last two miles or so. It took us 9 hours – at least we didn’t set the record for the slowest tr ip! The staff told us that one group once took 17 hours to come up. I was seriously exhausted and dehydrated, and perhaps a little hypothermic by the time we got up. We had to do the last two or three tenths of a mile in the dark with flashlights. The staff was wonderful to us. We missed dinner but they fixed us sandwiches and hot soup and gave us Gatorade and Advil. They offered to help us if we needed help in the night. The next day, they gave us advice about which trail to go down. We took Trillium Gap down. That trail was not as spectacular, but had more scenic vistas. Grotto Falls was wonderful – we did not know that you actually had to walk under the falls as part of the trail. We learned so much – take a headlamp, keep dry clothes in large baggies, take PLENTY of food and water – this is no day hike that you can do in old shoes and carrying a water bottle. We’ll be back when we lose more weight, and buy more emergency gear. We are forever grateful to the great staff.

Boulevard Trail

Richard Adams and I (Ron Metcalfe) hiked to LeConte Lodge on Sunday, August 10, 2008. Neither of us had been on the Boulevard Trail, and it was the only one that I had never taken to Mt. LeConte. We had debated hiking back out the Boulevard or hiking down Alum Cave Bluff and hitching a ride back to Newfound Gap. At the top, I told Richard that I was definitely taking the shorter ACB trail. I offered to let him go down Trillium Gap (the only one he hadn’t done), and I would pick him up. So we went our separate ways and both completed all the trails to Mt. LeConte.

Some statistics and notes about the Boulevard Trail. It’s easy to look at the elevation at Newfound Gap (5,046 feet) and compare that to the elevation of Mt. LeConte (6,593 feet) and think “Well, that’s only 1,500 feet of climbing, compared to 2,500 feet of climbing on Alum Cave Bluff, or the over 3,000 feet gained on Rainbow Falls, Bullhead, or Trillium Gap.” However, the Boulevard is an up-down-up-down-up-up-up kind of trail. You climb approximately 1,100 feet along the 2.7 miles of Appalachian Trail. Once you turn onto the Boulevard, you gain just a few more feet before beginning a 500 foot decline over the next 3/4 mile. Then you climb back up to Anakeesta Knob – about 400 feet gain in 1 1/2 miles – then drop back down 200 feet in 1/2 mile. After 3/4 of a mile of “relatively” level trail, you begin the most strenuous part of the hike. The next 1 1/2 miles climbs 800 feet to the summit at High Top. From High Top to the Lodge itself is about 1/2 mile of downhill. So, in the 8 miles total length, you are hiking uphill for 4.7 miles, and downhill for 3.4 miles. While the NET gain is only 1,317 feet from the parking lot to the lodge, you have climbed 3,724 total feet. The difference (2,406 feet) is the amount of elevation you have lost in all the descents. That’s not meant to scare you off the Boulevard, just to inform you, as I’ve heard people remark that the Boulevard must be the “easiest” since your starting elevation is higher than any other. Boulevard is a beautiful trail, and a beautiful hike, with wonderful views, and magnificant trees and flowers and shrubs; BUT, be ready for that last push.
The Boulevard Trail doesn’t actually begin at the Newfound Gap parking lot. You must hike 2.7 miles north on the AT before reaching the Boulevard Trailhead. The first few hundred feet of the trail consists of log steps, which are spaced just far enough apart that you can’t really get into a good rhythm. After that, there is a rocky area as the trail turns to the left. The trail is a steady climb, not too difficult, but pretty consistent. There are occasional views of Newfound Gap Road on the Cherokee side of the mountain. Most of the trail, both the AT and Boulevard, follow very near the ridgeline. In some areas, you can look to your left and right and the mountain falls away on both sides. It’s not dangerous, but it is fantastic to know you are on the very very top of the ridge. Rather than being covered in short heath growth, you are often walking through fir and spruce tunnels. In some areas, the trail opens up and you walk in sunshine and grass. Tunnel, sunshine, tunnel, sunshine. And there are a few lookouts along the ridge.

6 1/2 miles into the trail, and just over 1 1/2 miles from the Lodge, we began climbing again. We had 1,000 feet of elevation to gain (and re-gain) to the summit. I never was quite sure where the rock slide was on the Boulevard Trail, and I had assumed it was the large scar visible below Myrtle Point from the Alum Cave Bluff trail. However, I now realize that the slide on Boulevard is actually on the other side of the ridge, and is very similar to the one on Alum Cave Bluff trail, and although bigger in size, but is just as safe to cross. There are cables, and the trail is chiseled out of rock and is wide enough to be crossed safely. Just beyond the slide, as you turn toward Myrtle Point, is an area much more dangerous. A sharp drop-off right next to the trail. This part of the trail was the hardest to climb. The mile approaching the summit gains you about 700 feet in elevation. It wouldn’t be as hard if it didn’t come after already hiking 6 1/2 miles. There are a few areas that are quite steep, but they’re only a few yards in length till it regains a more gentle slope. But it’s steady, and it’s up, until you reach High Top.

We arrived at LeConte Lodge at 12:51 PM – 8 miles (almost exactly) in 4 hours, 27 minutes. We grabbed some rocking chairs on the office porch and had lunch as we watched low clouds drift over the summit. The thermometer read 61°, but there was a slight breeze, making it a bit cooler. After resting we set off for the hike down the mountain at 1:33 PM.

Ron P. Metcalfe
Mosheim, Tennessee

4-12-09 Perkins Hike to Mt. LeConte

What a way to spend Easter! It was our son Austin and his friend Timothy’s 1st trip to the top. Jason & I have done it together twice now. The Lord blessed us with a BEAUTIFUL day on Sunday; we hiked the Alum Cave Trail both up and down. We made it up in 4 hr 45 min (great time for me) all the boys (Jason, my husband, included) could have made in 4hrs, I’m sure. The boys loved the trail. They said their favorite was Arch Rock – it’s not everyday you get to climb through a rock. There weren’t many other hikers (and no bears – answered prayer) but we did see a few “runners” which just amazed the boys. Inspiration point gave us clear sunny views. Not too far further up from the cave area we heard and saw three Falcons! What a treat! The views were absolutely breath taking or maybe that was just the hike. There is a section of the trail that some relatives/best friends (Pat & Jeanie Lawley) of ours named “The Forevers” as it starts at the 1st wooden staircase and ends at the 2nd set. We all call it that because it is forever straight up. The boys were ahead of us on this part but had to stop and rest. We encountered a little ice and snow near the top which made me nervous but we all took it slow and easy and a couple of us used some cramp ons that friends had let us borrow. Everyone needs a pair of them! We finally made it to the top. The staff at the lodge were all great as usual, especially a new guy (Patrick). He’s a Chicago Bears fan so we got to talk some football. We were in Cabin #10, the most top cabin and the view from our front porch was the best! Dinner was wonderful! I had to laugh at Austin because when he finished his soup he said “I’m going to sleep good tonight, I’m full” I told him there is still more to come. Needless to say, he finished a second plate of roast beef, mashed potatoes and green beans. Clouds started rolling in after supper so no view of sunset but we got to relax in the best rocking chairs on earth before settling in for the night. Then around 1am I woke up and thought we were in a hurricane, “Hazard Wind Warning”, so our hike down was in 50 – 55mph (at least) winds and some light rain, clouds & fog (thank you Lord for holding off the big rain). And remember the ice I mentioned? Lucky most of it had melted by now but I think I’m totally prayed up for the year. By the time we got down to the Alum cave area the winds were better but the fog/clouds had socked us in. Yet just past Inspiration Point at the 1st foot bridge coming down the air was clear again. When we hit Arch Rock we told the boys to take off, my knees where yelling at me, we made it down in 3hr 25 mins and the boys were a good 15-20 minutes in front of us. We had a great time and the boys did say they would do it again but would like to try a different month than April because of the weather (wind & rain). Thanks again to the staff for all your hard work in making a family hiking trip one of the most enjoyed and memorable. Jason & Bev Perkins

June 7, 2010 The Heideman Family

Our family group of 11 made the hike up Mt. Leconte on Monday, June 7, 2010. We actually got off to a late start; however, it seemed like we made it up to Alum Cave Bluffs fairly easily and much quicker than we had expected. Once here, we took some quick pictures of the group, took in the beautiful scenery, then started up the trail again for Mt.Leconte. It seemed like we started off again at a pretty quick pace, but soon we were slowed down due to the steep grades and rocky terrain. The area where we passed under a canopy of pink rhodedendrum and mountain laurel was just gorgeous. My husband was able to stop and get a quick drink from the natural spring / waterfall on the way up the steep slopes on our journey to the top. We stopped frequently to catch our breath and take in the breathtaking views. When we arrived at the top, it was as fantastic as we thought it would be, but still was hard to believe we had made it! I have read many of the comments that others ! have made, and they are so accurate in their statements of the sheer beauty of this wonderful place. It definately will be something that all of us will remember for a very long time. The Heideman Family