We've been spoiled with another gorgeous day full of abundant sunshine. We've managed to stay above freezing over the last 24 hours, with day time temps hovering in the upper 50s. There has certainly been a great deal of day hiker visitation these last two days, and it's good to see folks exploring the outdoors while it's so nice. Who knows what we'll experience in the coming days!
Often a topic of conversation among visitors is the elevation of Mt. LeConte and where it ranks among the other giants of Southern Appalachia. Our favorite mountain, of course, stands 6,593 feet tall, with the largest base-to-summit differential (more than a vertical mile) of any mountain in the region. You’d be hard pressed to find someone unaware that Clingmans Dome (6,643’) surpasses Mt. LeConte for highest point in the Smokies and the state of Tennessee. Most folks are informed enough to know that Mt. Guyot (6,621’) also stands taller than this mountain, despite not having an actual trail to its summit. The Appalachian Trail navigates the western slopes of the large peak several hundred feet below its highest point. Together, they round out your Smokies’ top three. But what about the rest of the peaks east of the Mississippi River? That’s where it gets hazy for most people.
Mt. Mitchell (6,684’) takes the title as beast of the east, and that’s fairly common knowledge. Coming in at #2 is Mt. Craig (6,647’), the next peak north of Mt. Mitchell along the Black Mountain chain. Our nearby neighbor, Clingmans Dome, rolls in at #3 on this side of the country. It’s not until after Mt. Guyot, Balsam Cone, and Cattail Peak (the latter two also in the Black Mountains) that you would anoint Mt. LeConte’s High Top as seventh tallest in the east. (History buffs might enjoy reading up on the relationship between Thomas Clingman and Elisha Mitchell during their rivalry to measure the tallest peaks!)
If you’re interested in learning more about the region’s tallest mountains, I would encourage you to look up the South Beyond 6000 club, a challenge co-sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Club and Tennessee Eastman’s Hiking and Canoeing Club. It serves as an inspiration for folks hoping to summit, or “peak bag,” each of the forty recognized peaks above 6,000 feet of elevation in the region, many of which require off trail navigation. As you will find, based on certain stipulations, several knobs and shoulders (like Cliff Tops or Myrtle Point) fail to make the list because of their proximity to a taller point (in our case, High Top). This particular challenge doesn’t garner nearly as much attention as the Smokies 900 Miler, the 4,000’ peaks of the northeastern US, or the 14ers out west. In fact, you can probably count on one hand the average number of people who complete the SB6K challenge every year. If you have questions or would like to hear firsthand accounts about the SB6K, LeConte Lodge has two completers on staff - international hiking guru and llama wrangler, Alan Householder, and yours truly. It’s always fun to talk about the trails!
Welcome to the official blog of LeConte Lodge. We hope you find the information provided here both helpful and enjoyable. Thank you for visiting the site, and we hope to see you on the mountain!