Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park
by Kevin Adams (Falcon Guides)
© 2013 Kevin Adams/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This is a great trail that runs along the stream. Great sights
We started our hike at about 9:45 a.m. on a Thursday. The parking was already pretty packed. We saw quite a few people on the trail, but we still wouldn't consider it crowded. There were groups that were together and there were long breaks in between where we didn't see anybody. I have to say, though, everyone we met was very friendly. We only went up to Alum Cave Bluffs; we did not continue on to Le Conte. Keep in mind when reading this review, my wife and I are in our mid 40s and not in the best shape of our lives. We've been hiking for years, but our hiking has dwindled down to just a couple of times a year. We're hoping to improve that again, though. So, we disagreed with this being rated a "moderate" trail. We've been on other moderate trails before that weren't this strenuous. I think the thing that got to us the most was the ascent. The trail in a lot of places is rocky and there are quite a few stairs/steps in addition to the uphill grades. The rocks were wet and some of them were slippery, but there were guide wires to hang onto. I agree a lot with what the previous reviewer said. There are four log crossings (that's what they call them) which are logs across the streams with cables on one side to steady yourself. There were some older people (late 60s to early 70s) on the trail and some were doing great while others were struggling. There was even a couple on the trail that were carrying their small children! (Kudos to them!) Even with the difficulty and how tired we were doing this hike, the rewards were very well worth it. There were awesome views and we took some great photos (if I do say so myself). The only wildlife we came across was some birds, a squirrel, and a baby snake. I say this because my wife was somewhat worried about bears. It was a great hike. We would definitely do it again but maybe get ourselves a little more in shape and prepared before we do. I'll be posting some pics soon.
In late April, the trees/wildflowers still weren't in bloom at this elevation—but that didn't take away from the glory and splendor of this amazing hike.
I'd rate it as difficult because of the elevation; it's not killer, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart.
If you can make it, you'll follow a beautiful creek up the mountain. It cascades alongside the trail for a good mile to mile and a half. I highly recommend hiking all the way to the top then getting pictures on the way back down if you want to focus on the physical workout of the hike—otherwise you'll be stopping for pictures every 20–30 yards!
In addition to the creek and tiny falls, you'll pass over several stone passages and even up a stone staircase/cave on your climb.
I highly recommend taking plenty of water and snacks; maybe even a lunch to enjoy at the bluffs. It truly is a gorgeous hike.
Great scenery along the way, and panoramas at high points. Didn't make it all the way to Mt LeConte because of snowfall. The Alum cave lookout is amazing.
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