A truly epic long-day hike in the Smoky Mountains is to access LeConte village from the Boulevard Trail. This hike starts at the Newfound Gap parking lot off of Highway 441 and takes the Appalachian Trail north (toward Maine!) This part of the Appalachian Trail is fairly smooth and lovely, passing through lots of moss and fir trees that often smell like Christmas.
You’ll pass the Sweat Heifer Trail and might consider popping out on it for an open view. After another 1.7 miles. you’ll turn left on the Boulevard Trail. in another 5.4 miles, you’ll reach LeConte village. Along the way, you’ll hike along ridge lines with open views. The hike is an out and back, so make sure you have plenty of food and water to supply you for the return trip. Although the elevation gain is fairly moderate for such a long hike feet, the length of this hike is definitely hefty. You can roam around the LeConte area to add extra distance if you have it on you. There are plenty of short loops to overviews that are fairly flat and will reward you with more views.
If you’re in season, you can purchase snacks at the LeConte village store (bring cash). Our favorite treat are humongous $2 no bake cookies. Water spigots throughout the LeConte village are also useful for refilling bottles if you want to keep your pack weight a little lighter.
We hiked this trail in May when the park was getting green but not fully grown in for the summer. At these high elevations, this meant there were even more open views of the park. Because so much of the trail is along ridgeline, we recommend making sure the chances of thunderstorms are low when you hike. As you can see, that meant we got the most glorious blue sky day. Once you get to the LeConte area, you might have to pry yourself away to make the return hike. Just remember that going the other direction will give you a whole new perspective on the views.