The Alum Cave Trail is a popular and well-known route to Mount LeConte. The trail is 4.6 miles round-trip or 5.1 miles if you continue to LeConte Lodge. The round-trip to the cave bluff takes about 2 and 1/2 hours, but allow about 3 and 1/2 hours to LeConte Lodge.
The Alum Cave Trailhead is located near Newfound Gap at an elevation of 5,046 feet. The trail begins by paralleling the highway for a short distance before turning into the woods and beginning a series of switchbacks that climb 1,000 feet over the first mile. After the switchbacks, the trail levels out as it follows along Alum Cave Creek. You'll cross several small streams before reaching Arch Rock, a natural rock arch that spans the trail.
From Arch Rock, the trail continues to climb as it enters into Alum Cave, a large recess cave formed by weathering along a fault line in the rock. The cave gets its name from the minerals that were once mined here for use in making alum, a substance used in tanning leather and fixing dyes.
After exiting the cave, the trail continues to climb steeply as it reaches Inspiration Point, where you'll be rewarded with stunning views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge and Mount Kephart. From here, it's only another mile to the summit of Mount LeConte, where you'll find several historic buildings including LeConte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States.
Whether you're looking for a challenging hike or simply hoping to take in some amazing views, the Alum Cave Trail is sure to please. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to complete the hike; at 4.6 miles round-trip, this is not a hike to be taken lightly!