Alum Cave Bluff Trail

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is vast. Covering over 800 square miles, the hiking possibilities in the Smokies are endless. One of the park’s most popular is Alum Cave Bluff Trail.

Alum Cave Bluff rockface with stairs and hikers in Great Smoky Mountain

The Alum Cave Bluff trail is located 9 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441).

Hiking trail with pink rhododendrons

There are two parking lots at the trailhead, and restrooms are available. This trail is quite popular, so we arrived early to beat the crowds. Fortunately, there were plenty of spots when we arrived, but the lots were full when we left.

Sign for Alum Cave Trail with mileage

The trail begins with a bridge crossing Walker Camp Prong.

Wooden bridge on Alum Cave Bluff trail in the Smokies

The hike continues to Alum Cave Creek and follows the creek for about a mile.

Alum Cave Creek flowing over rocks

The trail then veers north along Styx Branch.

Alum Cave Creek flowing over rocks with green plants on either side

Along the first section of the Alum Cave Bluff trail, you’ll find some water crossings on sturdy foot logs.

Log footbridge over a creek on Alum Cave Bluff trail

Alum Cave Bluff Trail: Mile 1.4: Arch Rock

At around mile 1.4, the trail goes up and through one of the hike’s highlights, Arch Rock.

Stairs going up into Rock Arch

The National Park Service rates the first portion of the trail to Arch Rock as moderate.

Stairs going through Rock Arch

After leaving Arch Rock, expect more elevation change. The section of the trail between Arch Rock and Alum Cave Bluffs is rated as strenuous with an over 580 feet elevation gain.

Rock stairs coming out of Rock Arch

Hikers are rewarded for their effort with scenic views at Inspiration Point.

Pink rhododendrons overlooking a scenic mountain visit at Inspiration Point.

We hiked this trail in early June, and the rhododendrons were blooming!

Closeup of pink rhododendrons with green leaves

Alum Cave Bluffs Trail: Mile 2.3 The Bluffs

At mile 2.3, you’ll reach Alum Cave Bluff. Interestingly, Alum Cave Bluff is not a cave. Instead, it is an 80 ft high bluff.

Alum Cave Bluff trail climbing up beside a rock face with green moss

It’s a great place to stop for a break and enjoy a snack.

Alum Cave Bluff

While you’re there, look up! You may even get lucky and see a peregrine falcon.

2 peregrine falcons flying in the sky

If you have more time and stamina, you can continue on another 2.7 miles to Mount Le Conte (mile 5 on the trail). We did not have either and opted to turn around at Alum Cave Bluff.

Alum Cave Bluff with trail stairs leading up to the bluff

The out and back hike to Alum Cave Bluff is approximately 4.6 miles roundtrip. We took our time on this hike and spent about 4.5 hours.

Alum Cave Bluff trail with green foliage on either side of the trail

Alum Cave Bluff trail was incredible! It offers so many fun features: the footbridges, the stairs in the arch, the stunning flowers, spectacular views, and falcons circling the bluff. With so much to see, this trail is hard to beat.

Check out 5 Sensational Great Smokey Mountain Trails

Alum Cave Bluff hiking trail with shrubs on either side

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