LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park ...
The Great Smoky Mountains offers accommodations at two lodges within the Park which are accessible only by hiking or horseback -- LeConte Lodge and Charit Creek Lodge.
This wide paved trail is very heavily traveled for the first 1.3 miles until it reaches the 75-foot Laurel Falls. You will usually find a crowd at the pool at the upper falls, but beyond that the trail is less heavily used as it ascends through mostly virgin forest to the fire tower on Cove Mountain (closed to the public).
When night descends, you can wrap the silence around you like a cloak at LeConte Lodge. The only noises disturbing the stillness are the sounds of nature . . . nocturnal creatures going their way, the rumble of thunder or breezes rustling through treetops. It's a place where the visitor easily bonds with the environment.
At 6,593 feet elevation, Mt. LeConte is one of the Park's highest peaks. When the movement to establish a national park in the Smokies was in full sway, a tent camp was erected where LeConte Lodge now stands to entertain visiting dignitaries from Washington. Although LeConte Lodge is now under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, it predates the creation of the Park in 1930. Jack Huff, a Gatlinburg mountaineer and founder of the rustic lodge, began building the retreat in 1926. Eight years later, Jack and Pauline Huff were married at a sunrise service at LeConte's now-famous Myrtle Point, the traditional place to watch spectacular performances of daybreak. Jack, Pauline and their family continued to operate the Lodge until 1960. It is presently operated under the auspices of Stokely Hospitality Enterprises and supervised by General Managers Tim and Lisa Line.
Overnight guests at LeConte Lodge are very special people. The only way to reach the destination is by hiking moderately strenuous trails up and back. There are five trails to the Lodge, the shortest and steepest being Alum Cave Trail at 5-1/2 miles, which a hiker in good condition can do in approximately four hours. Some of these trails can be considered a stroll, and you occasionally encounter ice and snow as late as May or as early as October. The other trails are Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap, each 6.7 miles, a hike of about five hours; Bullhead, 7.2 miles and about five hours; and Boulevard, 8 miles and about 5-1/2 hours. Parking is available at the start of each trail.
Allow ample hiking time so that you can enjoy the opulent and incredibly diverse flora and fauna, yet still arrive in time to explore the Lodge area before the 6 pm dinner hour. Regardless of the trail you choose, it's as if the height and climate of the mountain had compressed hundreds of miles of geographical scenery into a single day's hike, providing a rewarding adventure. A high percentage of the guests each year are people who return time and again to accept the challenge of the hike and bask in the serenity and solitude of majestic Mt. LeConte.
An occasional hiker's bonus on Trillium gap Trail Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays can be overtaking a llama pack train carrying fresh supplies to the Lodge, weather permitting. Since the only way in or out is on foot, supplies are delivered that way as well. Once the hauling was done by horses, but the damage to the trails from their shod feet caused the management to seek alternatives. The most environmentally compatible creatures for packing purposes are llamas, which have very little impact on the trails with their padded feet, and are a delight to all hikers of any age with their humming sounds and gentle features.
Whether feasting your eyes on a sunset from Cliff Tops, watching a tame boomer squirrel nose around at your feet, enjoying a concert of birds warbling in the bushes, or making way for a meandering black bear, a night spent at LeConte Lodge is naturally quality time.
Located in the middle of the half-million acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, LeConte Lodge is the only place where a visitor can sleep overnight on a mountaintop, in a snug, permanent structure, with hot and hearty meals on tap. It has a capacity of fifty guests per night, housed in either roughhewn cabins or group sleeping lodges. The cozy cabins are furnished with upper and lower double bunk beds, making them ideal for two couples or a family of four to five persons. The lodges sleep from ten to thirteen each. Appropriately for a getaway from the high tech world a mile below, there is no electricity. The mellow glow of kerosene lamps lights your accommodations, and it is recommended that you pack flashlights in your gear. Lodges and cabins are warmed by propane heaters. Not too long ago, an up-to-date privy building with flush toilets was a welcome innovation to the mountaintop life, but there are no showers. Basins are standard in all lodging for sponge baths, and truthfully, since the temperature has never reached the 80-degree mark atop LeConte, no one is really anxious to get wet all over, especially since nighttime temperatures take a radical dip even at the height of summer. Those fleecy virgin wool blankets on the beds rate far higher with Lodge guests than icy showers ever could!
You live by the sun on Mt. LeConte, early to bed, relaxed by your climb, and early to rise to enjoy a renowned Myrtle Point sunrise. TVs aren't missed. For leisure activities, the Lodge office provides reading materials, games and comfortable chairs. Then there's always the most popular activity of all, sitting on the deck in rocking chairs, soaking up the view of mountain tops and distant valleys.
For your LeConte adventure, choose sturdy shoes already broken in. Include more than one change of socks in case of wet feet. Layered, lightweight clothing gives you the flexibility to add or subtract as temperatures fluctuate. A warm sweater or jacket is advisable anytime, and a lightweight raincoat or poncho is a must. Nature shows no mercy for those unprepared for her whimsical changes in weather. Summer nights can dip to forty degree readings, and in spring and fall, nights can drop into the teens with snow. A light knapsack should be adequate for your necessities, since everything but personal articles are provided at the Lodge. Remember to include a snack for along the trail and a canteen of water (drinking from streams is discouraged for health reasons), your own handtowel and wash cloth and that flashlight.
For more information or reservations at LeConte Lodge, call 865-429-5704. Offices are located near the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant on Apple Valley Road in Sevierville.