KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Vehicle-free Wednesdays along Cades Cove Loop Road are beginning in May.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the continuation of the pilot program in February. The popular loop will remain vehicle-free on Wednesdays from May 5 through Sept. 1.
Park managers implemented the change in 2020 in an effort to improve the visitor experience and to reduce congestion associated with vehicle-free mornings that were previously offered until 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Comments received by the park were mostly positive of the change, according to park officials.
“Overall, the full-day opportunity provided a more enjoyable and safe experience for the nearly 30,000 bicyclists and pedestrians who participated in the vehicle-free day opportunities,” a release from the park states. “During the 2020 season, 25% more pedestrians and cyclists participated in vehicle-free access periods per week as compared to the 2019 season, with an average of 1,800 participants each Wednesday.”
According to data collected in 2020, parking lots were full during 30% of the observation period and roadside shoulders along Laurel Creek Road were utilized for parking during 60% of the observation period.
The park is planning on implementing changes to parking access along Laurel Creek Road to ease pressure on campground and picnic area parking lots and to prevent parking along the roadway.