Our Smokey Mountains Vacation - Day Four, Part Two: Alum Cave Trail
This post is part of a travel series of our vacation in the Smokey Mountains. To start at the beginning, go HERE! The rest of the posts in chronological order are HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE!
On Day Four of our Smokey Mountain Vacation, we first hiked up to Laurel Falls in the morning, then realizing we still had plenty of time left, we decided to hike the Alum Cave Trail too! Normally two hiking trails in a day would be too much for me, but because the Laurel Falls Trail was fairly short and easy I was able to do it; and I was so glad I did because the Alum Cave Trail ended up being my favorite trail in the park.
The Alum Cave Trail has everything: water, views, bridges, scenic heights, and interesting natural architecture. Most of the trail you are walking alongside a gorgeous, tranquil river. You cross multiple pretty bridges; all of which provide ample spots for great photographs.
The running water of the river provides not only stunning natural beauty, but the sound of the moving water is so soothing as you hike.
This trail is loaded with Rhododendron bushes. I could not believe how huge they grew in the Smokey's. Our Rhododendrons in Wisconsin are barely waist high, and that's only if they survive the winter. I can't even imagine what it would be like to hike this trail when the Rhododendrons were in bloom. It must be so beautiful. To give you an example of how big the Rhododendrons in the Smokies get, that is a Rhododendron Bush on my left in the picture below. I read that the Smokey's is home to nine different species of Rhododendrons. They bloom anytime between June and August depending on the elevation and the species.
The Alum Cave Trail is 4.4 miles round trip. It is rated "moderately difficult" because of the elevation gain at the end of the trail, however, the majority of the trail is a gentle incline and follows along the river. The elevation gain is 511 feet per mile with a total elevation gain of 1,125 feet.
We took our time going up. We had the trail almost completely to ourselves because it was a cold day with rain in the forecast. It was cloudy all the way up, but we did get rained on going down. I was happy that we took our time going up and stopped and took lots of pictures BEFORE the rain came down. I dressed in layers: a tank, tee, coat, and a raincoat so I was never cold. If I warmed up or cooled down while hiking I removed or added a layer. Whenever you hike in the mountains you have to be prepared for all weather conditions. It could be sunny and warm when you start on a mountain trail, but quickly cloud up and turn to rain at the top.
We just could not get over how stunningly beautiful the river was. We kept stopping to take lots of pictures of videos. Be sure to check out the videos at the end of the post! The moving water in a video captures so much more than a photo.
The trail was slick in spots and I was grateful to have my walking sticks so I didn't slip.
This was a particularly slippery and dangerous spot...just to show you to be prepared if you plan on taking this trail. The majority of this trail was sand and easy to hike, but the higher you go in elevation, the more treacherous it can get in spots...especially if rains like it did for us.
I loved all the little "waterfalls" along this trail; they were all so pretty! And I've never seen so many bridges on one trail before.
The very first interesting natural architecture you come across on this trail is "Arch Rock". This is a mammoth rock arch with stone steps going right through it. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen on a hiking trail before. Be sure to watch the video at the end of the post about this rock. It is about 1.4 miles till you reach this point o the trail.
Once you get past Arch Rock you really start seeing the Smokey Mountains.
Of course, here is where the elevation on the trail really starts getting serious. It also starts getting slippery because of the steepness of the trail, so be sure to have a walking stick.
The views on this trail were so stunning! Other than seeing a few mountain ridges on the Laurel Falls Trail, this was the first time I got high enough on a trail to see the Smokeys! It was so inspiring! No wonder this point in the trail is called "Inspiration Point".
At Inspiration Point you are at an elevation of 4,700 feet.
But the most exciting part was yet to come for we were almost to Alum Cave. A series of wooden steps began the last trek of our journey.
And this is Alum Cave. It's really not a cave, but a massive concave overhang that towers 75 to 80 feet high. The views here are incredible! Most hikers stop here to rest before continuing on for the other half of the trail up to Mount LeConte Lodge or the return trip back down. We did not go up to the lodge for a ten mile hike in one day is too much for us, so we returned back down the trail after exploring the cave area.
It was a good thing we made the decision to return down the trail from this point, for that's when the storm clouds really moved in and it began to rain. The steep trail got slick really fast.
I was absolutely astounded at how all the moss in the forest greened up and appeared to "come to life" in the rain.
And here I am, soaking wet, happy to finally reach the end of the trail and get out of the rain, but looking very plump because I only have like four layers of clothes on. 😂
And now, as promised, here are the videos. In the first one we are just reaching the Alum Cave, the second one is Arch Rock, the third one is my husband mocking me as I try to cross one of the many bridges (I think it's so funny when he compares my walk to the "Biden Shuffle"), and the last one is of the gorgeous river on this trail.
This makes me want to plan a trip to the Smokeys this summer. The scenery is beautiful! Love seeing your photos!ReplyDelete
Jill - Doused in Pink
I hope you get there! It's only a day's drive for you. Thanks so much.Delete
What a beautiful hiking trail! I definitely learned that about layers and being prepared for all weather when hiking in the mountains too (though I really hate hiking with any sort of pack still).ReplyDelete
I hate back packs too. Unless it's a very long trail, we usually only take one back pack and take turns carrying it (but most of the time my husband ends up carrying it the whole time)Delete
Gosh, what a gorgeous hike Amy. Our rhododendrons grow really big here too which surprises me because it's so arid.ReplyDelete
It was. Yes, I've seen backyard pictures of peoples rhododendrons in other states and I can't believe how huge some of them grow. I guess it's one of the disadvantages of living in a cold climate, we can't grow a lot of things and if we can, they don't grow as big.Delete
me encanta este tipo de lugares, son preciosos con tanta aguaReplyDelete
Thank you! Me too!Delete
How beautiful! I really want to go on this trail!! Love the views!ReplyDelete
That would have been me walking over the log bridge too!!
I planted a Rhododendron this spring, hope it will survive the winters! I can only imagine how amazing that hike must be when they are in bloom!
Thanks Ellie. I'm glad I am not the only one who would take caution on the bridge. Yes, I would love to hike this trail when the Rhododendron's are blooming.Delete
What a beautiful place. Thank you so much for sharing with us.ReplyDelete
Gosh, what lovely scenery! You are truly in a gorgeous part of the country.ReplyDelete
I'm happy you chose to share your link at 'My Corner of the World' this week!
Thank you. It really is pretty. And we were there so early, the foliage on the trees wasn't on.Delete
Sweet friend, you have made me homesick for Tennessee. And the Smoky Mountains most of all. I read this post and enjoyed your photos then spent a few minutes staring at a painting PC bought me years ago of a forested valley beneath a craggy, smoky mountain range. He bought it to remind me of my Tennessee upbringing. Just turned the little art light hanging above the painting and it gives the effect of the sun peeking through the haziness. Thank you for sharing this beautiful corner of the world with us. And for rekindling my fond memories of home.ReplyDelete
Awww, sorry you miss Tennessee. It really is a beautiful state. How sweet of your hubby to buy a photo for you.Delete
The Smokeys are on my bucket list!ReplyDelete
They are so beautiful! Try to go during the off-season as it is a busy park.Delete
Wow, these photos are stunning, Amy! The landscape is so beautiful. I think this part of your hiking trip is the prettiest...from the photos at least! I really need to get back to that part of the world! I just saw all of my friends from that region this weekend, but we were in Pennsylvania.ReplyDelete
Thank you Shelbee! Yes, I agree, it is such a beautiful landscape. Hard to appreciate in just photos.Delete
A place that I would love to visit. So very nice.ReplyDelete