Mt. Le Conte Trails – Nobody knows who or when of the first person to ever to look east from Le Conte’s Myrtle Point to watch the sun rise out of the mists and mountains, or who was the first to see the sunset from the Cliff Top. People have been climbing to the top just for the beauty of Mt. LeConte since the early twentieth century.
In a 1963 essay, John O Morrell, a Great Smoky Mountains National Park management assistant, wrote of his first hike to Mt. Le Conte in August 1913. The way he and his father and another Knoxville father-son pair did, it took seven days to reach the top of Le Conte.
In a 1964 letter, Paul Fink of Jonesbough recalled a week he and two friends spent atop Le Conte in June 1921. He said there were not many signs of previous visitors at all. The trail out to Myrtle Point was so obscure that we spent part of our time chopping it out.
By late 1921, enough hikers were going to Le Conte to give some unidentified person the idea of nailing a Prince Albert tobacco can to a post. Hikers were invited to leave their names on a piece of paper in the can. C.L Baum of Knoxville attached a copper can to a Le Conte tree in 1922, and in it he left a book for names to be recorded. He wrote: “This book was placed on top of Le Conte Mountain for records on June 6, 1922, by C.L. Baum, at this time said to be the oldest man to climb to the top, age 61.”
In 1926 Jack Huff took over from Adams and started Le Conte Lodge, which has been there ever since. Jack and Pauline Huff married at sunrise on Myrtle Point April 29, 1934. Pauline said the wedding party started up the Bearpen Hollow route at 10 P.M the night before.
The Huffs operated the lodge through 1959. Herrick and Myrtle Brown took it over in 1960. Le Conte Ltd. Partnership now operates the lodge as a National Park Service concession. Le Conte’s crest has become such a popular hiking destination that it’s nearly impossible to get a weekend reservation at the lodge, unless you try a year in advance. Failing in the effort to get reservations, you can always hike up and down the mountain in a day; many do that. In fact, 31 year old Bill Sharp of Andersonville, Tennessee on a June day in 1992 made four round trips to Le Conte in one day. He did it by way of Alum Cave trail. He figured that he walked 41.6 miles up and down the mountain. Sharp’s friend, Paul Dinwiddie, of Knoxville had made 744 hikes to Le Conte by late July 1993. That’s probably the record for recreational hikes to the popular peak. But Dinwiddie says some of those who worked at the lodge-Jack Huff and Herrick Brown, for instance, probably made more trips. And C.L Baum, who in 1922, at age 61 thought he was the oldest person to hike Le Conte, lost that distinction to thousands of older hikers. Rufus Morgan, the late long walking Episcopal minister from Franklin, North Carolina, made his 174th and last hike to Le Conte on his 93rd birthday. Margaret Stevenson of Maryville, Tennessee, who has hiked every trail in the Great Smokies and had recorded 607 Le Conte hikes by early August 1993.