At 6,593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third tallest peak in the park and home to one of the most unique backcountry accommodations in the National Park System: LeConte Lodge. This backcountry lodge is located near the mountain’s summit and was built in 1926. The compound consists of seven log cabins and three lodges with individual bedrooms and a communal dining room.
Routes to LeConte Lodge
There are half a dozen trails leading to LeConte Lodge and the summit of Mount LeConte. While ambitious day hikers could tackle most of the routes in a single day, overnighting at LeConte Lodge is a special experience you won’t want to miss when summiting this peak.
Of the six trails that lead to the lodge, Alum Cave is the shortest but steepest at 5 miles one-way and almost 3,000 feet in elevation gain. For those looking for a long route, Brushy Mountain clocks in at 9.1 miles one-way. The most popular route, however, tends to be Trillium Gap at 6.7 miles. It’s argued to be the easiest of the six trails and it also has the bonus that hikers will likely encounter the lodge’s famous llama supply train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays along the trail. Vehicles can’t access LeConte Lodge, so food and other supplies for lodge guests must be packed in. Llamas have the least impact on the landscape, so they help deliver supplies to accommodate guests. See the detailed trail map to LeConte Lodge.
Staying at LeConte Lodge
Once you arrive at the lodge, you can enjoy the solitude of the surrounding area. Water and pack lunches are available here for day hikers, along with merchandise from the camp store.
If you have advance reservations to stay at the lodge, a hearty dinner is served in the quaint dining room, consisting of beef and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, stewed apples and dessert. Breakfast the next morning is scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, biscuits, pancakes and grits. Lunch is provided in the dining room or to-go if you are staying more than one night. While meals are provided at the lodge, guests will have to carry all their own personal gear with them up the mountain. It’s the backpacking version of glamping.
Take in the views from a rocking chair on the deck, go for a hike or play board games with your fellow guests. When it’s time for bed, you’ll bunk down under the glow of kerosene lamps since there’s no electricity at the lodge. Linens are provided, and all cabins and lodge rooms have propane heaters to keep you warm on chilly mountain nights. There are no showers at the lodge, but there are flush toilets in an adjacent privy building.
Perhaps the best reason to choose to stay at LeConte Lodge rather than summiting Mount LeConte on a day hike is that you’ll be perfectly poised to watch the sunrise from Myrtle Point. This special spot is where the lodge’s builder, Jack Huff, married his wife Pauline and is a stunning place to watch the sun come up and bathe the Smokies in golden light.
Reservations for LeConte Lodge
This incredible backcountry experience is definitely not a secret. Reservations are coveted and hard to come by. In 2022, the lodge opened a lottery for the 2023 season in early August and closed it in late September. During this time, people could fill out a reservation request for their desired dates. On Oct. 3, the written requests were processed simultaneously with phone call requests. Usually, all dates are booked through this process, but there are occasionally dates that don’t get filled or cancellations. The lodge has a waitlist form that you can fill out and specify three dates you’d like to be waitlisted for. You can also call the office at 865-429-5704 to see if any additional dates are available for reservation.
While the process of obtaining a reservation can be frustrating, it’s well worth the headache if you get one and get the chance to experience an overnight stay at LeConte Lodge. Find more information at www.lecontelodge.com/reservations/.
Services for Day Hikers
The office of the LeConte Lodge is the hub of activities both at the lodge and on the mountain. Visitors at the lodge are offered numerous forms of non-electronic entertainment, and many day hikers use the office as a resting place before making the trek back down the mountain. Day hikers may purchase merchandise and food at the camp store.