Saturday, August 22, 2009

Alum Cave Bluffs Hike

Alum Cave Bluffs

Distance: 5 miles (up & Back)

Moderate to Strenuous

Elevation : Vertical rise is 1,400 feet in 2.25 miles (3,840 to 5,200 feet) Through short, trail presents a steady, gradual climb and an easy return.

How to get there: From Berry Springs Lodge take rt 441 going South. Take the by-pass and you will enter into the Smoky Mountain National Park. Follow sighs to Cherokee/ North Carolina and you will see a sign that will read Alum Cave Bluff. This trail begins on the Newfound Gap Road. It leaves from the parking place so marked and is just over 8.4 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The trail includes points of geological interest, splendid views, world of rhododendron & laurel, and in the early spring, a wealth of warblers.

The first half-mile or so along the creek, the trail goes through tunnels of rhododendron & laurel. It crosses and recrosses Alum Cave Creek and two of its tributaries. At 1.3 miles it takes a right hand turn across the creek once more into a large hole. This hole is the Arch Rock, and Anakeesta formation consisting of sandstone, slate & phyllite. It is really a tunnel, and the grade of the path going through is very steep.

From this point up 2 miles, the trail rises sharply and comes out on a table of rock covered with sand myrtle. It is a good place for a break-to have sandwiches and look out at the rippling ridges of the Sugarland Mountain and Chimney Tops. To the west and higher up is a sharp ridge with a small window carved by erosion.

After this breather it seems but a trifling matter to reach Alum Cave, which is neither alum nor a cave. Rather, it is a tremendous bluff, so eroded by wind and weather as to have produced a cave like overhang. If you touch a finger to the rock, the flake will taste salty and bitter. It is worthwhile to continue beyond these overhangs another two-tenths of a mile. Here is another and different view-this time toward the massive south face of LeConte, scored by landslides of the past.

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