All You Need To Know About an Overnight Stay at LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

leconte-lodge-cabin-matthew-gjedde-heysmokiesLeConte Lodge is the only overnight lodging, other than camping, available within the borders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You cannot drive to LeConte Lodge. You must hike one of the five trails that access this rustic retreat located near the top of the 6,593 foot Mt. LeConte. An overnight stay at LeConte Lodge is an incredible experience you won’t find any place else in the world! Just ask anyone who’s witnessed an awe-inspiring sunrise or sunset from LeConte’s Myrtle Point.

LeConte Lodge is open from late-March to mid-November and with a maximum capacity for only 60 guests a night, reservations are often made more than a year in advance.

The traditional ringing of the dinner bell each evening promptly at 6:00 p.m. welcomes overnight guests to a hearty family-style dinner with next morning offering another family-style breakfast feast at 8:00 a.m. Sack lunches, along with lemonade hot chocolate, coffee, and baked goods are also available from the lodge’s dining hall. Adults, be sure to pre-order wine service for your dinner!

Although you should take care to pack your backpack lightly, these items are a must to bring along for your adventure on Mt. LeConte:

  • Sturdy and durable hiking boots or shoes, that are already broken in, along with more than one pair of  non-cotton socks. Trust us, wet feet are no fun. Waterproof boots are shoes are even better.
  • A raincoat or poncho is a must along with lightweight clothing that will dry quickly and can be layered. In spring and fall nighttime temperatures can dip into the teens with snow. Summer nights can even drop to a chilly 30 degrees, so a lightweight fleece jacket is needed year-round.
  • Adequate water supply and a snack or lunch for your hike up the mountain to the lodge. For the safety of your health, please don’t drink water directly from mountain streams.
  • A headlamp or flashlight. There is no electricity at LeConte Lodge. We prefer a headlamp to keep your hands free. Kerosene lamps provide lighting in the cabins with propane heaters providing warmth.
  • A hand towel, washcloth and personal items like toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. Although there are no showers, wash basins with soap are in all cabins. You will be happy to know there is modern privy building with flush toilets. All bedding linens, including pillows and cozy Hudson Bay wool blankets, are provided.
  • Credit card or cash for additional food or souvenir purchases at LeConte Lodge.

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The Cosby Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cosby Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is perfect for those who are looking for somewhere a bit off the beaten path and away from the big crowds in the park. Nestled on the northeastern side of the Smoky Mountains, Cosby is a great destination for hikers, cyclists, campers, horse lovers, and the locals!


The Historic Fire Tower atop Mt. Cammerer (Photo: Kirkendal/Spring Photographers)

Great Hikes in Cosby

Cosby Nature Trail – 1 mile roundtrip
This is a terrific one-mile long nature trail beginning at the Cosby Campground near the outdoor amphitheater. A great little walk through a bit of old-growth forest, which Cosby Creek runs through, is magical any time of the year.

Hen Wallow Falls – 4.2 miles roundtrip
Hike to Hen Wallow Falls on Gabes Mountain Trail which begins across the road from the Picnic Area just before the entrance to Cosby Campground. One of the main highlights of this trail is the big trees of the old-growth forest.  A spur trail steeply descends to the right at mile 2.1 to lead to the base of the waterfall. Use extra caution when stepping on the slippery rocks.

Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower – 11 miles roundtrip
This strenuous hike begins on Low Gap Trail located near the designated parking lot for hikers near the Cosby Campground Picnic Area. Low Gap Trail, which is horse-friendly, climbs steeply for 3 miles before intersecting with the famous Appalachian Trail (AT). Take a left on the AT towards the Mt. Cammerer Trail. At almost the 5-mile mark, you’ll find the spur trail that leads the summit of the 4,928 ft. tall mountain. From here, it’s about seven-tenths of a mile to the historic fire tower with views of the beautiful Pigeon River Gorge.

Sutton Ridge Overlook – 3 miles roundtrip
The hike to Sutton Ridge Overlook begins on Low Gap Trail for about four-tenths of mile to intersect with horse-friendly Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail. At about mile 1.4 mile you’ve reached the overlook. Lower Mt. Cammerer Trail continues on to access backcountry campsite #35 and then on to intersect with the Appalachian Trail.

Poet Laureate of the Smokies & WWII POW Ella V. Costner Gravesite – less than 1 mile roundtrip
The graveyard is accessed via Snake Den Ridge Trail that begins near Campsite B-55 at Cosby Campground. The trail begins as an old road and after three little creek crossings you’ll see the small graveyard on your right. Costner (1894-1982) was born in Cosby and grew up on Crying Creek near the Gabes Mountain Trailhead. After her stint as an Army nurse in Pearl Harbor and Guam, she returned to Newport, Tennessee and published several books of poems and essays. For more information on Ella V. Costner, check out her Facebook page!

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The Greenbrier Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park smoky mountain hiking club cabin greenbrier

Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Cabin

…feeling great in GREENBRIER!

The Greenbrier section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be found six miles east of Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Highway 321. Also known as Big Greenbrier, this watershed is widely considered the finest example of a cove hardwood forest on planet Earth. The entrance to the cove is a narrow paved road which meanders alongside the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River.


A Driving Tour of Greenbrier

The first mile into Greenbrier has many riverside pull outs for fishing, paddling, and the occasional wedding ceremony. After passing the ranger station the road turns to gravel and narrows, so please be courteous and allow room for other vehicles to maneuver. Past the ranger station the next landmark will be a quiet picnic area on the left next to the river. The picnic grounds have several tables and composting toilets.

Traveling on you will soon find a pair of bridges on the left. The Grapeyard Ridge trail begins on the west side of the bridges. Grapeyard Ridge meanders 7.6 miles west ending at the Cherokee Orchard Motor Nature Trail.

The Old Settler’s trail begins on the east side of the bridges. Old Settlers trail stretches 15.9 miles east to its junction with Maddron Bald trail and Gabes Mountain trail.

Turn left onto the bridge and drive 1.5 miles to the Ramsay Cascade trailhead. Ramsay Cascades is a tough eight mile round trip hike to one of the tallest and most beautiful waterfalls found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The trail is renowned for its old growth forest and giant trees in addition to the awe inspiring waterfall.

Remaining straight at the bridge will bring you to the second picnic area found in Greenbrier. This spot has a covered pavilion, picnic tables, a pure, running spring and composting toilets.

A half mile after the picnic area the road dead ends at the Porters Creek trailhead. Porters Creek trail is 3.7 miles long and is a favorite among wildflower enthusiasts during the spring. Porters Creek trail also provides access to the historic Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin and the Brushy Mountain Trail. Brushy Mountain is 4.7 miles long to its junction with Trillium Gap trail and is considered one of the most challenging ways to access the summit of Mt. Leconte. Continue reading…

The Deep Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Deep Creek Experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park includes three impressive waterfalls found among the pristine mountain streams that appeal to anglers and tubers alike. Hikers love the trails that lead to the waterfalls. Cyclists love Deep Creek too; most trails in the National Park are closed to bicycles but not the Deep Creek and Indian Creek Trails. And with camping and picnicking available, what’s not to love about Deep Creek?


Tom Branch Falls at Deep Creek. Photo credit: ProTrails


Juneywhank Falls – The beautiful 80-foot cascade, Juneywhank Falls can be viewed along a 1/3 mile steep trail from the Deep Creek trailhead parking area. This is a large parking area at the end of Deep Creek Road which is located across the creek from Deep Creek Campground.

Tom Branch Falls – Another impressive 80-foot waterfall can be accessed from the Deep Creek trailhead parking area. Walk along the flat and wide Deep Creek Trail about 1.4 mile to Tom Branch Falls.

Indian Creek Falls – Continue along Deep Creek Trail past Tom Branch Falls for another mile to Indian Creek Falls. Follow the trail about 200 ft. uphill to view the top of falls the plunges over 25 feet into Deep Creek. There is a small spur trail that leads to the bottom of the falls.

There are two loop trails that can take you to all three trails: Three Waterfalls Loop which is 2.4 miles and Deep Creek-Indian Creek Loop which is a moderate 5 miles and a favorite hike for viewing spring wildflowers.

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Family-Friendly Fall Hikes for Different Skill Levels

When it comes to hiking it seems like everyone has a different skill and interest level, so here are four family-friendly fall hikes to please most everyone. An all-day trek covering many miles may be your thing; however someone in your bunch may prefer just a short, quiet walk in the woods. With that in mind, we have some suggestions for some great fall hikes that range from easy to difficult.


Lace up your hiking boots, or your walking shoes, do a couple of simple stretches, and enjoy kicking through the colorful and crunchy leaves on these favorite trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this season!

  • Sugarlands Nature Trail (.5 mile roundtrip, easy)
    Sugarlands Nature Trail is found 1/4 mile south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road. The trail is a paved, handicap accessible, path that is 1/2 mile in length. The trail follows the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River upstream with benches for relaxing and plenty of access for trout fisherman. The Sugarland Valley is acclaimed for the beautiful fall foliage. Once dominated by the sugar maple tree, today it is a mixed hardwood forest with a dazzling diversity of fall color.
  • Laurel Falls Trail (2.6 miles roundtrip, moderate)
    The Laurel Falls trailhead is on Little River Road four miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail is paved but is considered moderate in difficulty. The 2.6 mile round-trip hike is well worth it with a 80-foot tall waterfall to reward your effort. If you hit this trail at the right time of the season the fall colors are amazing! We suggest early to mid October. This is one of the Park’s busiest trails, so a good off-time to hike is during the week or early before 10:00 a.m.
  • Abrams Falls Trail (5 miles roundtrip, moderate)
    The Abrams Falls Trail is found halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road approximately 1/2 mile before the Cable Mill Historic Area and Visitor Center. The hike is 5 miles round trip and is considered moderate in difficulty. Again the rewards for this hike are big with an up close view of the 20-foot tall Abrams Falls from its base. Keep an eye on the creek as you walk along and you may be fortunate to see some playful river otters. The best chance for viewing fall color in Cades Cove is usually mid-to-late October due to its lower elevation;  however, with sweeping views of the Stateline Divide there is always some color in view at some elevation.
  • Alum Cave Bluffs Trail (4.6 miles roundtrip, difficult)
    Alum Cave Bluffs Trail is one of the most popular in the Smokies and is found on Newfound Gap Road 8.6 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center. Get an early start and avoid the crowds. This relatively short walk, 2.3 miles one way, is considered difficult due to a rise in elevation of almost 1,500 feet. The steep climb does however provide amazing views of some of the most famous geologic features in the Park, like Arch Rock and the Chimneys. The hike to the bluffs is 4.6 miles round-trip. This hike combines Cove Hardwood Forest and the edge of the Canadian Zone Spruce Fir Forest giving the hiker the opportunity to experience a wide diversity of fall color. The Smokies are often described as being on fire during the fall when the vibrant red and yellow foliage are at peak. Don’t miss your chance to see it in 2015.

Keep up with the Fall Color Report from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service!

HIKER PLANNING TIP: Always be prepared for the unexpected when you step into the wilds of the Great Smoky Mountains. For a complete breakdown of the minimal supplies you should always carry visit our blog on the Ten Essentials.