This is another major Southern Appalachian peak that's overshadowed by a much larger and more massive neighbor. In this case, it's Mount Kephart that's somewhat belittled by Mount Le Conte, its more famous neighbor. However, as the Appalachian Trail travels near the summit of Kephart, and as the most popular shelter in the park (Icewater Springs Shelter) is also near the peak on this most traveled of trails, I suspect Kephart is at least as commonly summited as Le Conte. However, a lot of folk who climb to the top of Kephart don't even realize they've done so, as they're too busy thinking of the views available on their way to The Jump Off.
[img:73662:aligncenter:medium:Ice Water Springs Shelter.]
The only trail that summits Kephart, of which I'm aware, is the spur trail from The Boulevard, which goes right over the evergreened summit, a side trail of three-tenths of a mile that takes one over to The Jumpoff, agruably one of the highest sheer walls in the eastern United States.
Take 441 from either Gatlinburg TN or Cherokee NC to Newfound Gap. Park in the lot and take the Applachian Trail north.
[img:122361:aligncenter:medium:From the Jump Off]
None just to hike. If staying in the backcountry or in one of the shelters on the AT, you must acquire a backcountry permit at a ranger station, unless you're an AT through-hiker.
When To Climb
Any time of year. Be aware that this part of the Southern Appalachians receives very cold and sometimes icy weather with heavy snow during the winter. Thunderstorms can be a concern on the ridges all year long.
Camping is allowed, at designated sites, with permits.
Check with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Weather for nearby cities is unrliable for the high country.
[img:132698:aligncenter:medium:View from the Jumpoff.]
For news on trail conditions, trail/road closings, bear activity, and other issues, check here.