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Hello folks!  Just wanted to post on our most recent hike to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  This time, we planned a trip to hike Mt. Leconte via the Rainbow Falls trail and then back down the Bullhead trail.  We have both done Alum Cave trail, so we thought we’d try a couple different trails and start to knock off all the trails leading to Leconte.  We have two more left, Trillium and Boulevard.  We’re planning on doing those two early spring.

The weather was a bit cold at the start of this trip, but overall it was great.  Leconte still had about a 1/4 inch of snow and some ice but other than a few slips the trail wasn’t too bad.  The skies were clear, making for some good views on the way and especially good views up top at Myrtle Point and the Clifftops area.  The temperatures in the morning were in the low 20’s and topped out in the mid 40’s/50’s during the day.

I have to tell you, Tommy and I have both been training fairly hard to get ready for this trip.  We’ve both been walking/jogging, doing stair steps, going to the gym, etc.. and I believe it paid off.  The whole way up Rainbow we felt really good and would often just take 30-40 seconds stops to take in everything and have a quick breather, then we would move on.  Recovery times have definitely improved!  The length of Rainbow Falls trail is about 6.6 miles to the Mt. Leconte Lodge and took us around 4 1/2 hours to complete.  We didn’t break any speed records for sure, but we had a good time and it seemed a lot easier than similar hikes (Alum trail) in the past.

I last hiked the mountain in 2011 via the Alum Trail and it was good to be back on the mountain and at Leconte Lodge again.  I always enjoy the feeling you get when you arrive in the area and see the set of stairs leading down to the cabins.

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Coming up Rainbow Falls Trail:

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Rainbow Falls pictured below. Not a lot of water flow this time of year.

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One of the larger cabins at Mt. Leconte.

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After sitting down in the sun at a picnic table and eating some grub (not to mention grabbing this years Bandana and patch for souvenirs), we were ready to hike up to the summit, place our rock and continue out to Myrtle Point.

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Myrtle Point never fails to impress me.  On a clear day, you can see for miles and it’s just breath taking.  We spent about an hour taking in the views, having some more snacks, and just relaxing with the boots off!

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We backtracked towards the lodge and took the spur trail off to the Cliff Tops.

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Tommy enjoying the view right before the Cliff Tops.

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We returned back to the Leconte Lodge area and started the trip back down the mountain via the Bullhead Trail.  At this point we had put in a little over 8 miles and had 6.8 miles left to the trailhead.  Bullhead was difficult because of all the leaves covering the trail.  This made it hard to see all the loose rocks (which there were a lot of) and roots causing a slow and stumbling trip down the mountain.

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At about 6.4 miles Bullhead intersects with the Old Sugarlands Trail.  .4 miles on the Sugarlands Trail to right takes you to the parking lot.  The overall hiking time was about 9 1/2 hours with a total trip time of 12 hours.  We were quickly losing daylight hours and made it back to the car about 30 minutes before nightfall.  The longest I’ve hiked in one day previously had been 13 miles.  I got to say, I was ready to be back to the car after 15 miles of hiking.  We had a great time though and can’t wait to see what the next adventure has in store for us!

Check out the video below (video includes some footage from Cades Cove on the previous day):

-David
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