Smoky Mountain Trail: Alum Cave Bluff Trail

Vibrant orange trees in fall autumn smoky mountains tennessee

Alum Cave Bluff Trail

The Alum Cave trail has some of the most spectacular views and scenery of any trail in the park. To get there you will drive 8.6 miles east on Newfound Gap Road. There you will find two parking areas, there is a sign marking the trailhead. The trail is 4.6 miles round trip. You will begin the hike at the Grassy Patch just off the parking area. Shortly after entering the forest, you will parallel the Alum Cave Creek for approximately a mile and then follow Styx Branch, a main tributary of Alum Cave Creek.

A few hundred yards beyond this point, you’ll see the boulder and log remains of a 1993 flash flood and landslide on your left. The massive slide of soil, rock, trees, and water surged out of the hillside, taking a swatch of the trail along with it. The slide spread above this point where the valley widened, and massive hardwoods stopped the catastrophic flow. Just ahead you’ll pass through the slide debris.

At mile 1.5 you come to Arch Rock, where a set of stone stairs aids your passage through one of the few natural arches inside the park. After crossing Styx Branch by footbridge, the trail curves through thick rosebay rhododendron and old growth hardwoods. The forest opens again at the 1993 slide.

The trail climbs moderately up the side of Peregrine Peak. At the 1.8-mile mark you will come upon Inspiration Point, a panoramic view. Thereafter, you’ll pass through an area of low shrubs. The trail climbs steeply along the face of the mountain and reaches Alum Cave Bluff at 2.2 miles from the trailhead.

Alum Cave is not what the name implies. It’s not a cave, it’s a jutting ledge of black slate, forming out over the trial to give the impression of a cave. The name Alum Cave comes from the deposits of alum found along the cave walls.

For those who want to continue on to LeConte Lodge, the trail curves up and around the bluff and begins following the ridge that forms the southern Flank of Mount LeConte.