We did two hikes while in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in January. One being the Alum Cave hike to the bluffs.
According to the day hikes guide we picked up at the Sugarlands visitor center upon arrival,
it was a fairly short hike, 4.6 miles round trip and rated as strenuous.
This trail was amazing…..there were so many different things to look at, experience, and explore. First, I must remind you, we were here in January and this particular day was a Saturday. The trail was no doubt wet. Some spots were wetter than others but easily doable.
A bit down the trail we came to our first of three one sided bridges that were over water.
This trail does follow a stream/river almost the entire way which makes for some very nice photo opportunities along the way.
(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes Photography)
Eventually you will come to a cave opening that has steps built into it that will bring you up and over away from the stream. This is Alum Cave. There is cable built into the wall of the bluff for guidance but it is not difficult in any way, in my opinion.
After going through the cave we came across our first water crossing without a bridge. In January we found it easy to find big enough rocks to make it across with dry feet.
Upon reaching the bluffs, it was still very foggy and made for a good rest spot while our son took all the photographs he came to get. This also made a nice spot to stop and have a snack and cool down. It was a warm hike, being about 60 degrees outside on this day, but it is straight up the mountain the entire way.
After this we headed back down the same trail we came up and back to the parking area where we began. Of course, there were more photographs to be taken along the way.
For us this trail was great. Our GPS read 5.6 miles round trip when we returned to the vehicle. Now, we did make a few extra steps for necessary reasons but an extra mile I would have to wonder about. However, after many years of hiking I have found no one measurement of mileage on a trail is ever the same so for us it ended up being 5.6 miles proudly!
A few things I must mention…..in January you will not find the restrooms at the trailhead open. So take care of “business” before hand. The parking area for this trail is well mark, easy to find and has ample parking. However, in January when we returned from our hike, vehicles were lined up on the road due to full lots everywhere. I can only imagine summer/spring and fall to be even worse. So I would say, arrive early during all seasons.
And, as near other trailheads we have visited, this one was also well marked to take all valuables with you.
I would highly recommend this hike if you are in good shape and like mountain hiking. Children will also be able to easily do this trail with parent supervision. Cliff edges are easily manageable and the views are breathtaking.