Where to take friends who are visiting? We have dozens of choices, living in the Knoxville area, but we always hope our visitors will want to hike. Our friends from Iowa visited a couple of weeks ago, and we knew these folks could handle a good hike. After much deliberation, Randy chose Alum Cave Bluffs. We wanted water, as the temps were in the 90s, but we decided to head down to Metcalf Bottoms after the hike rather than do a waterfall hike.
The trail is fantastic—it was a little challenging at times, but beautiful and varied. Lots of fun rocks and such. Arch Rock, a natural arch, comes at the 1.4 mile mark. The kids loved climbing the rock steps; the adults were glad for the guide wire along the side.
A little bit after Arch Rock, you'll come to Inspiration Point, where the views are truly inspiring.
And in just another half mile, you'll come to the bluffs. Wow! This is so unlike the usual scenery in the Smokies. These bluffs are more Rockies-like; in fact, they reminded me somewhat of Mesa Verde in Colorado.
We had some snacks and lots of water and then headed back down. The view of Eye of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge was phenomenal. See that little hole in the ridge? You used to be able to hike there, but the park service has closed the trail so that we hikers won't disturb the Peregrine Falcons that are nesting there. Very cool.
The hike back down was easy, but we were hot so we drove down to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic and dip in the river.
I've been on lots of trails in the Smokies, and I'd have to say this is close to my favorite. The hike itself was interesting and just a bit challenging (we're in pretty good shape and the youngest kids were 11), the views were fantastic, and the bluffs were awe-inspiring. Total miles: 4.6, moderately challenging.