UT Book Traces History of Mount Le Conte Trails

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Most hiking trails are measured in miles.

But the trails of the Smokies’ Mount Le Conte are measured in years in a new book from the University of Tennessee Press.

“A Natural History of Mount Le Conte” by Kenneth Wise, UT-Knoxville Libraries business manager, and Dr. Ronald Petersen, UT-Knoxville Distinguished Professor of botany, is a historical guide to the mountain’s summit.

Petersen says the book outlines Le Conte’s six main trails — Alum Cave, Bullhead, Rainbow Falls, Trillium Gap, Brushy Mountain, and Boulevard. It chronicles development and history of popular landmarks such as Inspiration Point and Huggins Hell.

“The goal of the book is to blend civil and natural history,” Petersen said. “This is not a hiking guide, but a geological and biological guide to who lived there, what they farmed, and how it helped shape the land.”

The book covers how 650 million years of geological history and 15,000 years of human contact have shaped the peak.

Wise has authored a hiking guide to the Smokies and is co-editing a regional bibliography of the park with UT librarians Anne Bridges and Russ Clement.

Petersen has drawn international recognition for his research and knowledge of mushrooms, fungi and biology of the Southern Appalachian mountains.