Alum Cave Trail Great Smoky Mountains
The Alum Cave Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular trails for good reason. This trail offers more interest and rewards per mile for the hiker than any other in the national park.
Due to the popularity of this trail, it is often an adventure just finding a parking space at the trail head, especially in peak seasons. The parking lot is used by both day hikers and for overnighters staying at the LeConte Lodge and the LeConte Shelter.
From the parking lot you’ll cross the bridge over Walker Camp Prong. The first mile or so of the hike is a relatively gentle stroll along Alum Cave Creek and then Styx Branch. This park of the hike is akin to many of the park’s riverine trails with lots of rhododendron and the sound of water tumbling across rock in the background.
Things change once you arrive at Arch Rock. The trail actually passes through the natural tunnel though the rock via a staircase constructed to make the passage easy and fun.
Once you get past Arch Rock you will begin a more demanding climb to Inspiration Point. This is a place to pause and enjoy the sweeping vistas of the park below. Keep your eyes open for the small red squirrels that frequent this area but please resist the temptation to feed them. Feeding wildlife is a violation of park rules and is harmful to the both the wildlife and the ecosystem.
At about 2.5 miles from the parking lot, you will reach the Cave Bluffs. This is not a natural formation but is the result of mining activities in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But it remains as one of the most curious spots in the park, and once you have been there it is a place you’ll never forget.
If you return to the trailhead from here your total round trip is roughly five miles. If you want to continue to the junction with the Rainbow Falls Trail you are approximately halfway there. The trail ascends steeply from the bluffs and continuing from here is recommended for properly prepared experienced hikers only.