Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alum Cave Bluffs in the Great Smoky Mountains


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 Alum Cave trail is about 9 miles past Sugarlands Nature Center on Newfound Gap Road. (There are restrooms in the parking lot, by the way, in case you don't want to stop at Sugarlands.) It is the most common hiking trail to get up to the summit of Mt. LeConte, but we didn't go all that way.

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.


10 comments:

  1. We have just moved to TN, and although we are not as close as you are to the Smokies, I could be a great trip for us. We are at the Eastern edge. It looks like it was a great day!

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    1. Phyllis: You are in a beautiful area! We went to college in upper East TN and lived there for a few years after college. So many beautiful hiking spots there!

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  2. Looks awesome! I'm looking forward to my kids being big enough to handle hiking/biking.

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  3. I think we all had a fabulous day that day. It was more than we could ask for and exactly what we wanted to do and see while we were in TN. Thanks for taking us there. Thanks for having us.

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  4. What beautiful views! I've added Alum Cave Bluffs to our families "must see/do" list for our next visit to the Smokies! It looks like you had an amazing day.

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  5. I've enjoyed your blog for quite a while now. We've been in eastern Tennessee for three years now. I have friends who are camping next week in the Smokies and are looking for a primitive campsite. Do you have any to recommend? Thanks!

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    1. Amber: We have never been disappointed with any of the park's campgrounds. Our absolute favorite is Elkmont, though. Making reservations is imperative at spots like Elkmont and Cades Cove, but some of the others aren't always so crowded, like Cosby and Smokemont (love both of these also). Still, I'd highly recommend making reservations at this time of year. This page will take her to reservation information. http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/frontcountry-camping.htm

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  6. wound like you had fun and would love to gone therwe great pic

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  7. thanks for sharing.

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