Alum Cave

Gatlinburg, TN
Length: 4.40 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

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One of the most popular trails in the Smokies, Alum Cave does not go to an actual cave, but an 80 foot, impressive rock overhang.

From the parking lot, the trail crosses two bridges, before following a rushing creek for 1.4 miles of steady but small elevation gain. At 1.4 miles, the trail crosses a narrow bridge and enters a tunnel. Climb the stairs through the tunnel and rise above the creek. Here the ground can be muddy, and there are wires strung on the right side of the trail as handholds which are recommended for children.

From here the trail climbs 500 feet over the next .9 mile. The trail makes several stream crossings, and about halfway between the tunnel and the cave opens up to beautiful views of the mountaintops.

Here the trail narrows, with sharp drop offs to the left. Just before the cave you will reach a set of wooden steps for the short but very steep final climb. It is common for water to drop from the top of the overhang, and the water can turn to icicles in the winter so use caution! Take a break here and enjoy the views, and retrace your steps to the car.

*Note—the trail continues past the cave for 2.3 miles to the Mount LeConte Lodge. The remainder of this trail is steep with several narrow passages, and makes an 11 mile trek round trip, and is therefore not considered a Hike It Baby recommended trail, so when planning this be aware that Mt. LeConte and Alum Cave follow the same initial path.

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Trail Features

Surface type Dirt
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms No
Pet friendly No
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Creek / River, Mud Puddles, Natural Play Area, Shaded Hike, and Viewpoint

The “cave” this trail is named for is not a cave, but a huge overhang halfway to Mount LeConte. It’s a great place to stop and take in the sights, and under the overhang has sandy ground that’s fun for playing in.

Before getting to the cave, the trail meanders along a creek bed for over a mile, and crosses a couple of seasonal streams before reaching the top. There are several easy access points to the creek that make for excellent water play, though will certainly make the trip to the top take longer.

The other major feature on this trail is the “Arch Rock” at mile 1.4; after crossing a narrow bridge the trail follows a set of steps through a natural tunnel. Unfortunately crowds make it hard to stay here for long, and the steps inside the tunnel can be slick, but it is a good motivating point for getting young walkers to move forward.

Fee & Parking Details

Fee : $0.00

This is one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, to the extent that there are two parking lots to accommodate all of the traffic. Plan to get there early to get a parking spot.

Trail Contributor

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I am the Branch Ambassador for Hike It Baby Chattanooga. A native of Richmond, VA, I spent most of my adolescence and early adulthood hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and once my children were born started taking them on adventures with me! I am a portrait photographer and freelance writer, trying to hike my way through all the trails southeastern Tennessee has to offer.

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