Mount Le Conte via the Trillium Gap Trail, Grotto Falls - Trillium Gap Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Mount Le Conte via the Trillium Gap Trail - 12.9 miles
Grotto Falls - Trillium Gap Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||12.9 miles (add .7 miles roundtrip for Myrtle Point)|
|Start-End Elevation:||3,235' - 6,593' (6,593' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+3,358' net elevation gain (+3,594' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Mount Le Conte via the Trillium Gap Trail - 12.9 Miles Round-Trip
Mount Le Conte (6,593') is the 3rd highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and tallest from base to top in the eastern United States. Of five routes leading to the summit, the Trillium Gap Trail offers balance between distance, difficulty and scenic attractions:
The Trillium Gap Trail rises steadily beside Roaring Fork Creek to Grotto Falls (1.3 miles : 3,760'), and slips behind it under the overhang to the far side.
The trail steepens past the falls on a rugged path that gains 950' in 1.6 miles to Trillium Gap (2.9 miles : 4,710'). Here the main trail continues on to Mount Le Conte, and a spur breaks off to Brushy Mountain (4,911'). Look for deer, turkey and bear in grassy areas along the pass.
The Trillium Gap Trail climbs steadily through overlapping Northern Hardwood, Pine-Oak and Spruce-Fir communities. Northern Hardwood Forests are the highest elevation deciduous forests in the eastern US, including American beech yellow birch and maple.
Look for white pine and various oak species along drier slopes and ridges. Red spruce, Fraser fir, and mountain ash are more abundant as you gain elevation.
The trail drops over 100' before climbing back through 4.0 miles (5,257') with an occasional glimpse of Brushy Mountain and Mount Le Conte. Travel steepens beyond 5.0 miles (5,688'), where pine-oak and spruce-fir take over at higher elevations.
A strenuous push leads through dense red spruce to a hitch rack, past which stock is not allowed (6.0 miles : 6,280'). The trail forks just past the rack - right to Le Conte Lodge, and left for 'AT'.
Bear left for AT - in moments you'll see the Boulevard Trail junction and turn left for the Le Conte Shelter (6.1 miles : 6,395').
The Boulevard Trail passes Mount Le Conte Backcountry Shelter (6.25 miles : 6,455') and curls northeast to the summit. Curiously, no signs mention the summit.
The summit - also referred to as 'High Top' - is marked only by a large rock pile just off trail (to the right) in a cluster of pine (6.45 miles : 6,593').
While views are limited, excellent panoramas can be had from clearings along the Cliff Top Trail (see map), or by continuing on to Myrtle Point. Myrtle Point is a sister peak on the east shoulder of Le Conte with exceptional views across the heart of the Park (an additional .7 miles and +180' roundtrip).
To reach Myrtle Point, continue east and drop down the Boulevard Trail to the Myrtle Point Trail split (6.6 miles). The Myrtle Point spur undulates through broken pine stands to the point (6.8 miles : 6,546').
About Le Conte Lodge
The Le Conte Lodge was founded in 1926 by Jack Huff, a Gatlinburg resident and mountaineer. The Huff family operated the lodge until 1960, which is presently managed by Stokely Hospitality Enterprises under the auspices of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The lodge has capacity for 60 guests per night in one of 7 rough-hewn cabins or 3 multi-room lodges. All rooms have kerosene lanterns, propane heaters, a wash basin and bucket, linens, table and chair, and a mirror. Lodging + Meal rates begin at $116 per night per adult, and $85 per child.
Day hiker services are available 7 days a week from March 21 - November 22. Day hikers may reserve a $9 sit down lunch served from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Reservations and prepayment are required at least 48 hours in advance. Sack lunches and beverages are also available.
Contact and Reservations
Le Conte Lodge
250 Apple Valley Road
Sevierville, TN 37862
- N35 40.827 W83 27.755 — 0.0 miles : Grotto Falls - Trillium Gap Trailhead
- N35 40.677 W83 27.420 — .5 miles : Steady, mild climb beside Roaring Fork
- N35 40.434 W83 26.965 — 1.3 miles : Grotto Falls
- N35 40.358 W83 26.571 — 2.0 miles : Increasingly steep and rugged travel
- N35 40.433 W83 25.973 — 2.9 miles : Brushy Mountain Trail split
- N35 40.076 W83 26.321 — 3.5 miles : Markedly steeper climb above the pass
- N35 39.817 W83 26.379 — 4.0 miles : Trail drops and rises to 4.0 mile mark
- N35 39.871 W83 26.207 — 4.5 miles : Views of Brushy Mountain
- N35 39.822 W83 25.932 — 5.0 miles : Begin steep, rugged push to 6.0 miles
- N35 39.660 W83 26.128 — 5.5 miles : Spruce-fir forests dominate landscape
- N35 39.247 W83 26.435 — 6.1 miles : Boulvard Trail split - turn left
- N35 39.198 W83 26.335 — 6.25 miles : Mount Le Conte Shelter
- N35 39.253 W83 26.198 — 6.45 miles : Mount Le Conte summit
- N35 39.229 W83 26.092 — 6.6 miles : Boulevard Trail - Myrtle Point Trail split
- N35 39.199 W83 25.900 — 6.8 miles : Myrtle Point
- Be mindful of changing weather conditions and leave summits, open spaces, and exposed ridges before storms develop. Get an early start to secure parking and avoid storms.
- Trillium, for which this trail is named, is a perennial whose seeds are spread by insects, primarily ants. Trillium are delicate plants that can take years to recover if picked or disturbed.
- In the Smokies, only Clingmans Dome (6,643') and Mount Guyot (6,621') stand higher than Mount Le Conte. Clingmans Dome is the third highest mountain in the eastern US next to Mt. Mitchell (6,684') and Mt. Craig (6,647'), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina.
- Hemlock, sometimes referred to as the redwoods of the east, are among the largest and most common trees in the Park. Hemlock Forests thrive along stream sides and moist, shady slopes up to 4,000'. They can grow to 150', have trunks 6' in diameter, and live several hundred years.
- Supplies are transported to Le Conte Lodge by llamas 3x per week during peak season, and by helicopter for major transports at least once a season.
- Maintain a respectful distance from occupied cabins in the Mount Le Conte Lodge and keep noise to a minimum as you pass through.
Camping and Backpacking Information
BACKPACKING IN THE SMOKIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.
Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/
Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.
General Backcountry Regulations
1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.
2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.
3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.
5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.
6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.
7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.
8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.
9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.
10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.
11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.
12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.
13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.
14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.
15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.
16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park
18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
- Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
- The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
- A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.
- Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.
- Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
- Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.
Rules and Regulations
- Horses and stock are permitted on the Trillium Gap Trail, but not beyond the 6.0 mile mark and lodge. The summit may only be reached by foot.
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Grotto Falls - Trillium Gap Trailhead is located 5.3 miles from downtown Gatlinburg TN in the northeast central quadrant of the Park.
From downtown Gatlinburg, turn south onto Airport Blvd from light #8. Airport Blvd turns into Cherokee Orchard Road as it enters GSMNP. Just past the Rainbow Falls lot (3.3 miles from light #8), turn right at the sign for Grotto Falls (3.6 miles). The Grotto Falls Trailhead is located 1.7 miles ahead on the right (5.3 miles from light #8). Drive cautiously on these narrow, winding roads. Note that this is a one way road, and you'll be deposited onto Highway 321 on the return from the trailhead, several miles east of where you entered on Airport / Cherokee Orchard Road.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Visitor Information - Recorded Message
Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)
Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)