Set at 6,360 feet near the summit of Mt. LeConte, this hike-in lodge is remote, rustic, and remarkable; it is not, however, luxurious. Small, rough-hewn wood cabins and two group sleeping cabins have bunk beds and propane heaters. Rates of $132 plus 9.75% tax per person include breakfast and dinner. Lighting is by kerosene lamps. There are privies with flush toilets but no showers. You can take a sponge bath in a washbasin or a bucket—bring your own hand towel and washcloth.
Hot water is available from a spigot near the dining room. The appeal of LeConte Lodge is in the mountaintop setting, taking in the views from your deck rocking chair, and stargazing at night—you can see the Milky Way, meteor showers, and, starting in early fall, the northern lights. At times, however, clouds obscure the views. At this elevation, the temperature has only once reached 80°F (in summer 2012), mornings can be frosty even in June, and spring and fall snows are not uncommon. A hearty breakfast and dinner, served family-style in a rustic dining room, are included in the $126 per person rate. A sit-down or bag lunch is available to guests and to day hikers at $10 per person. Wine with dinner—a bottomless glass—is available for $10 per person. There is no road access to the lodge; the only way in is by foot, up one of five trails, none of which is short or easy. The 6.5-mi Trillium Gap Trail is probably the easiest trail to the lodge as it is not as steep as the other trails. The Alum Cave Bluffs Trail is the shortest trail to the lodge, but it is fairly steep. If you're in good condition, you may be able to do the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail in four hours. Other trails take up to six hours or longer, so get an early start. You can prove you've been to the lodge by purchasing a LeConte Lodge T-shirt, sold only at the lodge. Lodge supplies are brought in three times a week by llama, up the Trillium Gap Trail, and once a year by helicopter. Pack your backpack lightly and remember a flashlight, rain gear, layered clothing, sturdy shoes, snacks, water for your hike, cash or a credit card for purchases at lodge, and personal items. The lodge typically begins booking reservations in a lottery for the following year's season (late March to late November) on October 1 of the year before.
Mt. LeConte Lodge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, 37862, United States