Friday, December 30, 2011

Winter Hike To Mt.LeConte via Rainbow Falls

  The trail begins at the southwest corner of the parking lot. For the first two-thirds of a mile you'll climb steadily over a boulder-strewn pathway, while LeConte Creek cascades down the mountain on your right. There are many opportunities for some great picnic sites along this section of the trail.
The trail crosses over two footbridges, one at 1.7 miles, and the other at 2.4 miles, before reaching the 80-foot high waterfalls at 2.7 miles. Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. It receives its name from the rainbow that's produced by mist and becomes visible on sunny afternoons. During extended winter cold spells, an impressive ice formation builds around the falls. You may notice a little bit of ice just to the right of the falls in the picture on the left.
To continue on to Mt. LeConte, cross the footbridge at Rainbow Falls. Over the next 3.2 miles you'll climb more than 1700 feet before reaching the Bullhead Trail junction. This section of trail will take you past rhododendron, sand myrtle and mountain laurel that offer hikers beautiful mountain blooms during the spring.
At 5.4 miles, you'll arrive at a side trail, which loops back to the main trail after a short distance. The loop leads to Rocky Spur, an outcropping of rocks that offers nice views of the valley below.
At just under 6 miles from the trailhead you'll reach the Bullhead Trail junction. Turn left to continue on to the summit of Mount LeConte.
In another 0.4 miles you'll reach the Alum Cave Trail, which forks in from the right. At this point you'll have your first views of the LeConte Lodge.

Hike to Mt.LeConte via Rainbow Falls 11-06-10

Hiking through the snow on Rainbow Falls Trail

Very slick log bridge on way to Mt.LeConte via Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls in the beautiful snow

Hiking through 8 inches of snow on the way to Mt.LeConte

Trail on the way to Mt.LeConte

Rainbow Falls and Alum Cave Trail Junction

Almost at the Lodge of Mt.LeConte

Steps going down to the lodge and kitchen of Mt.LeConte

Winter Hike To Mt.LeConte

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