KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One of the most popular hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed on weekdays through November 17 as part of a trail rehabilitation project gets underway.
Temporary closure of the Laurel Falls Trail begins Monday and runs through Thursday, November 17. During the closure, the trail will be closed Monday through Thursday. However, park officials shared that the trail was open on Monday and Tuesday, November 14-15.
Park officials said work may take place on Fridays, but if so, the trail would be accessible for hikers that day only.
During the closures, a geotechnical crew will use a drill rig to take samples of materials under the trail and behind the trail’s retaining walls. The setup of the drill rig will cover the entire trail width, leaving no space for people to safely pass, park officials said. Full closure is needed to keep hikers safe.
The information gained from the samples will be used to inform design proposals for improving the trail tread and retaining wall as part of the Laurel Falls Trail rehabilitation project. According to the park, the samples “will provide information about the stability of existing structures, materials used to originally build the trail in the 1930s, and materials used for subsequent repairs over the last eighty years.”
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular trails inside the park. The trailhead is on Fighting Creek Gap Road about 5.5 miles from the Park’s Gatlinburg entrance. The National Park Service has begun planning efforts for Laurel Falls Trail Management Plan. NPS said the plan is needed to rehab the trail’s surface, address crowding, improve flow through the trail, enhance viewing opportunities for the falls and protect park resources. For more information, visit the park website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/LaurelFalls.
Another way the park has worked to improve the trail is by placing parking barriers along non-parking areas near the trailhead. The barriers were in place from June 9 through Oct. 30.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information.