View Full Version : Alum Cave Trail

03-15-2007, 03:47 PM

The family trip to Gatlinburg is next week. We have gotten a copy of Smoky Mountain Scavenger Hikes from the book store, and it looks great.

We are thinking of doing the Alum Cave Trail hike, but not all the way to the top of Mt. LeConte. The scavenger hike book calls the trip "moderately extreme."

Can anyone give me their opinion of the hike, particularly for kids. My boys are 9 and 6. We do some "nature walks" on trails locally, but nothing extreme. In particular, my 6 year old is rambunctious and prone to wandering off. My big fear is that he will fall down a cliff. How wide is the trail? Are there steep dropoffs? Is the footing good?

Thanks for your help.


Hugh Hartsell
03-15-2007, 04:21 PM
Robert, the Alum Cave Trail is multi faceted and has lots of different features. It starts out without too much gradient and begins to climb at a pretty good pace. There is one good outcropping on the way to Alum Cave Bluffs that is a good place to rest for awhile and lots of hungry squirrels. As you climb on up to the bluffs, it get's pretty steep and there are some places that you have to hold onto cables. If you go this far, you really need to watch the small children closely. If you happen to want to go the full distance,(not recommended with children) you will come to several places that are very narrow and a cable is needed to hold on to as you get close to the top. This hike is very scenic but I don't recommend it for small children. Do the short version.

03-15-2007, 05:20 PM
I did the whole Alum Cave Trail passed the bluffs and all the way to the top of Mt. LeConte. I remember that there were places that did have cables to hold on too because of the drop off on the other side but if I remember correct most of them were pass the bluffs on the way to Mt. LeConte. That was a very long hike to the top. The only thing that I can remember that was kind of difficult was the part of the trail that goes into a big rock and you have to hold on to a cable and climb up these steps. What made it difficult when we were there was that there was snow and ice on alot of the rocks which made it very slippery. the bluffs were amazing and you should definately check them out.

03-15-2007, 05:52 PM
I agree with the others, but I'm more on the "don't do this one" side. A better hike would be the Bradley Fork trail or the Elkmont trail - or even Anthony Creek. Heck, there are alot more trails that would be better for someone with pre-teen kids that probably go nuts outdoors( I did when I was that age! :) )

And there are places where kids would probably get a little too close to the edge - when they say cables you hold onto, they aren't kidding. A 2 ft wide ledge and steel cables bolted into the rock is all that is between you and thin air. I'd even say someone afraid of heights should avoid this trail when it comes to that point.
That said, you can hike a couple of miles up the trail before you get to the cliffs, etc. and in the first couple of miles the only thing is a rock stairway, but it's not dangerous or too hard to hike.

The sign at the trailhead warns you about several things - mainly that the trails is long and not for folks that aren't ready for a bit of a climb.

I think you'd be happier doing Porter's Creek, Bradley Fork, Road Prong, Elkmont's Little River trail, Anthony Creek trail or Laurel Falls.

03-15-2007, 08:14 PM
Funny story bout Alum Cave. Bout 25 years ago my Dad, Mom, Little Bro, & Sis took the hike. We hiked almost every weekend so the incline wasnt a big deal. Get up to the "cave" or bluff & eat lunch. Appartenley something up there sent my brother into an allergic shock. He is always been allergic to sulfer & we thought we smelled some up there. So my Dad & I carried his big but all the way back down to the parking lot! Was not funny then but we laugh bout it now. BTW I would not take young kids.... no way!!!

03-15-2007, 08:16 PM
Hey rlockwood:

I've hiked every trail in their entirety with the exception of Bullhead. I agree with some of the other posts that Alum cave is a rather strenuous trail unless you just wanted to stop at Alum Cave bluff. I think you and the kids would be fine as long as you didn't go passed that point. Above the bluff it gets rather steep and narrow. On the other hand, there are 3 other routes to the lodge all with their own special features. in my opinion, the best trail for keeping the whole party together would be either Trillium or Rainbow Falls.

Here's some more helpful info:


03-15-2007, 08:18 PM
I strongly agree with the other folks. Give the kids about four more years and then go to Alum Cave.
I would offer a couple of great hikes with children your kids ages.
1. Great Smokey Mountain Institute at Tremont(GSMIT)has a two-mile round trip hike behind the campground that goes back to a great waterfall and has some exciting(but safer) bluffs to walk along. The trip is not arduous. I took my 10 and 8 yo grandchildren that way and they loved it. I enjoyed the walk myself.
2. At the end of the road(going on past GSMIT entrance) is a wide trail that has some great cascades and is an easy walk. That trip is the left trail coming out of the parking places. Going to the right is a short walk to a neat iron bridge across the creek.
Remember to take rain gear, prediction is some showers next week.

03-15-2007, 10:25 PM
I took my son gaintfish on this hike when he was around 6 or 7 started out as a great trail, nice gradual grade and a few log steam crossings. the the grade got steeper and trail stayes near some shear drops. put my day pack on my sons back so i could keep a hold of him without he knowing it. saw several kids on the trail but they seemed very experanced. I would not recomonend for young children. My famliy also has the scavnger hike adventures and one trail that we enjoyed last year was Porters creek trail. Its on the other side of Gatlinburg in the "quoter and less busy" Greenbrier. Lots of stuff to find ans the river at greenbair has some good fishing. another good hiking book for families is "Historic Hikes of the Smokeys"

03-15-2007, 10:36 PM
My wife just sat beside of me and reminded me of Big Creek trail and midnight hole and mouse creek trail we went on last year. Its a wide trail, it was either a jeep trail or rail road bed. I hike it in my wadding sandals with a heeling broken foot. we hike about a liile farther than the book said and it took less than 2hrs. Long ways from Gatlinburg but not far from Catalochee and the Elk. good day trip to end up in Catalochee in the evenig to see the elk. Now everyone on the message board sees why I sneak up to fish by my self or with Gaintfish, my wife likes to spend time hiking not fishing.

03-16-2007, 08:00 AM

Thank you for your responses. I tend to be a little overprotective, plus we are definitely rookie hikers. Therefore, to be absolutely safe, we will take a pass on this trail for now.

Thank you for all of the other suggestions. I will definitely be taking the pack rod on all hikes. If I see a rising fish, I'm casting at it. :)

Vern, I think we bought the Scavenger Hike book after you recommended it. This is exactly what my 6 year old needs. Something to focus his attention a little bit while we are out. We love the book and we are looking forward to using it.


03-16-2007, 10:16 AM
the spruce flat falls trail at tremont is currently in sad shape. it has several blow downs to negotiate, so you might wanna pass on it for now. however, west prong trail is nice and leads to some nice fishing on the west prong and a really pretty backcountry site (#18).

03-16-2007, 11:10 AM
Lots of easier trails with views than Alum Cave. You might try the Boulevard with heads out toward LeConte Lodge, It is typically wide and easy with great views. It starts at the New Found Gap parking area.
My son and I did that one last spring, he was eight.

03-16-2007, 11:28 AM
however the round trip on the boulevard is 16.5 miles and there is one stretch which is very very narrow.