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GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS | Mt. LeConte Summit – Sunset From Cliff Top

October 13, 2014

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^^ Our cabin neighbors are pictured top right, in the matching LeConte tshirts ^^

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Our cabin neighbor told us that in the 14 times she had visited LeConte, she only saw the sunset once. Undeterred, we weaved our way through the cabin village after dinner and hiked up a short but rocky path to the top of Mt. LeConte. It was pretty much the evening’s entertainment so the majority of the people at the lodge were also at Cliff Top waiting for the sun to set.

We started the trail a bit later than the rest of the lodgers and somehow managed to take a slight detour off the main trail finding ourselves wandering around the brushy mountaintop (this is pretty typical) wondering where to find the best photo spot. Thinking this was *the* top we took tons of photos until I spotted some movement around to the right of the trail. We hiked over to where we saw, and then heard, people laughing and then sort of regretted when we did. Even though we found *the* sunset viewing spot, we also found the rest of LeConte waiting there too.

The wind blew pretty hard up at Cliff Top. Some ill-prepared people gave up early while others, like us and our cabin neighbors, waited it out. On their way back down to camp a group of people passed us and told us that we could have “their spot” as there was “nothing to see anyway.”

Was it like watching a liquid desert sunset? No, of course not. But I didn’t have any expectation that it would be either. After the unappreciative hikers left the clouds blew away juuuust enough to let the orange=pink sky peer through. Poetic justice if you ask me. Not long after, the mountains returned to layers of blue upon blue upon blue, which was beautiful and tranquil in its own right. It was not the grandest sunset we have ever witnessed, but it was not any less breathtaking to be on top of a mountain looking far out over shrouded mountaintops that seemed to stretch into eternity. Nothing to see? I begged to differ.

Back at camp, while most people hung out and made friends in the lodge’s great room, we retired to our front porch to spend our evening watching what I first thought was lightning but then came to realize was cloud-obscured fireworks (we found out later that LeConte looks out over Dollywood which puts on a fireworks show every night). While out-of-place, it was nevertheless entertaining, swaying in our hammocks high above the rest of the world, watching fireworks from down below.

DETAILS

Cliff Top Trail // .2 miles from the entrance of LeConte Lodge (or about 5.2 miles one-way from Alum Cave Trail parking lot). See the stairs in the photos above? The trailhead starts right across the trail from those stairs and is well-labeled. Cliff Top is best for viewing sunsets while Myrtle Point (a little bit further down the trail and to the left of the Lodge stairs) is best for viewing sunrises. Once the trail opens up to a panoramic view, take the trail to the right until you reach the cliffy/rocky area. This is where most people sit to watch the sunset. Be forewarned that Mt. LeConte is covered in clouds or fog 75% of the time so seeing a sunset like what you would see at the beach is not as likely. Sunset or not, the view is still worth the short trek. Bring layers, it can get really windy up there.

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