Changes coming to LeConte, hikers explain appeal

Published: Oct. 30, 2019 at 11:45 AM EDT
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We're taking you 6,593 feet up to Mt. LeConte. The peak has gorgeous trails and a world-renowned lodge.

LeConte means choices: an intense family hike, a quiet place to think, or a lifelong obsession. Some climb it once, while one Gatlinburg man bagged the summit 4,000 times. The six trails hold millions of stories.

"It's just something that is in my DNA so to speak," Brian Worley said.

That sunrise burned into Worley's memory as a Boy Scout hiking up Alum Cave.

"It is a family tradition in that sense, and something that will continue," Worley said.

Be's been 103 times. Now president of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, he's often asked what keeps his hiking boots coming back.

"Part of the mystique is that they hear about a lot of people that have done it a lot of times and they want to know what's attractive," Worley said.

From the 'faerie glade' to the rolling fog, there's a sense of accomplishment in the thin air.

"The thing that's drawn me back there... is just the variety of ways that it looks in different seasons," Worley said.

"There's an appeal to LeConte because there are so many different ways to get there," Knoxville mom of three Katie Baker said.

A week ago, Baker hit all the trails, down and back, in 17 hours.

"We covered 44 miles," Baker said.

The Tour LeConte: her idea of a fun 40th birthday challenge.

"It was really dark, and it was pouring rain, and had been for like seven or eight hours," Baker said.

She stopped short two miles of her goal, when rain made the trail too dangerous.

"I couldn't walk the next day, so that was a success," Baker said. "Sometimes fun can mean doing something hard and celebrating it afterwards."

No roads lead to the lodge and there's no easy way up. There's also no vacancies, for now at least

"Apparently I've learned a lot of people had a sort of grandfathered weekends that had gone on forever and ever," Worley said.

Soon it may be easier to snag a treasured lodge reservation high up on LeConte. Dana Soehn from the National Park Service tells us the 'standing reservation' system has been slowly eliminated in the last few years. The process actually began in 1998. Starting next year, for the 2020 season, everyone will be on equal footing. Of course, many of those spots have already been booked.

You can find the lodge's website by clicking


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