Park reopens two trails closed in 2011 for tornado damage

Park reopens two trails closed in 2011 for tornado damage

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The Beard Cane Trail after the storm. (Source: NPS) The Beard Cane Trail after the storm. (Source: NPS)
Abrams Falls Trail also received extensive damage. (Source: NPS) Abrams Falls Trail also received extensive damage. (Source: NPS)
Abrams Falls Trail after park crews repaired it. (Source: NPS) Abrams Falls Trail after park crews repaired it. (Source: NPS)

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Two trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that were closed to hikers in 2011 after receiving significant storm damage are finally back open to park visitors.

The park's trail crew recently completed rehabilitation work on Beard Cane and Hatcher Mountain Trails.

The trails were extensively damaged in April 2011 when an F4 tornado struck the western portion of the park.

More than 50 miles of trails were closed because of the storm, including areas of Abrams Falls Trail, Ace Gap Trail, Little Bottoms Trail and Rabbit Creek Trail, among others.

Many of those areas had since reopened, but the Beard Cane Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trail remained closed due to damaging tornado winds and rain that left the trails blocked by thousands of downed trees.  

Park crews also had to rebuild the trail tread surface and construct multiple retaining walls where the trail had been completely destroyed after uprooted trees fell downslope with sections of the trail attached.

In addition to 24 trail crew workers from the Smokies, the park sought the assistance of trail crews from Canyonlands National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park to reopen the trails.

"This was some of the most challenging work I have ever faced," said Smokies Trail Crew Supervisor Tobias Miller. "It was clear from the first day after I crawled through only three of the damaged trails that we were in for some serious challenges to reopen these trails." 

All trails are now reopened for public use along with Backcountry Campsite 3.

Backcountry Campsite 11, however, will remain closed. The damage to the site was so great from the storm that park officials deemed the location unsuitable as a campsite.  

For more information about trail conditions, please visit the Park's website or call our Backcountry Information Office at 865-436-1297.
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