Bull Head Trail and Rainbow Falls Trail
Both the Bull Head Trail (5.9 miles long) and the Rainbow Falls Trail (6 miles long) begin from the Cherokee Orchard Road and end on Mount Le Conte. Both trails start on a large debris fan of predominantly boulders of metasandstone. The Bull Head trail crosses sheared rocks of the Elkmont Sandstone above the Greenbriar fault and both trails cross good exposures of the Thunderhead Sandstone that are well exposed at Rainbow Falls.
Looking at Mount Le Conte from the
Gatlinburg Bypass, the large
Close up of Elkmont Sandstone
Rainbow Falls is where Le Conte Creek
flows over gently-dipping
Mount Le Conte
There is a lodge on top of Mount Le Conte, about 6360 feet above
Trillium Gap Trail and Grotto Falls
The Trillium Gap Trail (6.5 miles long) connects The Roaring Fork Motor Trail with Mount Le Conte. The trail begins on a large fan of debris of predominantly boulders of metasandstone and it crosses local colluvium and scattered outcrops of Elkmont Sandstone before it crosses Grotto Falls. Grotto Falls is where Surry Fork (a tributary of Roaring Fork) flows over nearly flat-lying ledges of metasandstone of the Thunderhead Sandstone at 3680 feet above sea level. The sandstone overlies dark gray to black slaty metasiltstone that is exposed along the trail at the approach to the falls. There is a natural overhang, or grotto, behind the falls where the Trillium Gap Trail crosses it.
Alum Cave Trail
The Alum Cave Trail (4.9 miles long) begins near the Newfound Gap Road and ends at Mount Le Conte. The trail crosses colluvium along Alum Cave Creek and Styx Branch where rocks of the Anakeesta Formation are exposed in Arch Rock. On the east side of Styx Branch at 4200 feet above sea level, Arch Rock is a large hole in black slaty rocks of the Anakeesta Formation where water and ice have eroded. The slaty rocks are highly fractured, folded, and have irregular pods and veins of white quartz in them.
The trail crosses a debris chute of a debris flow and deposits at several places on the route to Alum Cave. The spectacular scenery here is largely the result of debris flows that have stripped the vegetation and soil during high rainfall events to expose bedrock.
Alum Cave is a bluff of rocks of the Anakeesta Formation that forms a natural overhang along the Alum Cave Trail at about 5000 feet above sea level. The word Alum is a general term for hydrous alkali aluminum sulfate minerals that form as sulfide minerals weather. Alum Cave is recognized for the occurrence of “potash alum” (Palache and others, 1951). Local legend has the alum quarried here by Cherokee and Civil War for gunpowder.
Cave is a bluff of rocks of the Anakeesta Formation that
The rocks exposed here were named for the dark slaty rocks found on Anakeesta Ridge to the immediate southeast (King and others, 1958). The metasiltstone and phyllite exposed in the bluff is composed of quartz, muscovite, paragonite, chlorite, and accessory garnet, rutile, pyrite (fools gold), pyrrhotite, allanite, monazite, apatite, graphite, and zircon (Flohr and others, 1995). The musty sulfur-like smell and the yellow, white, and rusty-brown colors on the rock surface are from the weathering of sulfide minerals and secondary-minerals that weather from them. Fine-grained soluble secondary salt minerals form by the evaporation of acidic metal-bearing groundwater seeps. These minerals have been identified here: copiapite, alunogen, gypsum, halotrichite, pickeringite, melanterite, rozenite, slavikite, epsomite, and starkeyite (Flohr and others, 1995).
Also exposed within the metasiltstone are podiform bodies of light gray metasandstone and dark gray to black sandy dolomite.
The bodies of sandstone and dolomite are interpreted to be local channel deposits that are now intrafolial isoclinal folds. These folds have near horizontal axial planes that parallel the dominant foliation. The origin of the dolomite-rich silt may be inorganic precipitate (Hadley and Goldsmith, 1963). Noteworthy is that similar silty dolomite occurs as lenticular clasts within granite boulder conglomerate of the Thunderhead Sandstone along Big Creek.
Aggregate of fine halotrichite needles
and euhedral hexagonal
bluff at Alum Cave is dark slaty rocks of the Anakeesta
Chimney Tops Trail
The Chimney Tops Trail (2 miles long) begins near the Newfound Gap Road and ends at Chimney Tops.
The Boulevard Trail
The Boulevard Trail (5.3 miles long) connects the Appalachian Trail near the Jump off (approximately 2.7 miles east of Newfound Gap) with Mount Le Conte. The Boulevard Trail cuts across the strike of the stratigraphy and structure of the Anakeesta Formation and often follows a serated ridge that drops steeply on both sides.
Looking north at snow covered Mount Le
Conte from the Boulevard