Great Smoky Mountains National Park releases initial reopening plan

Top Stories

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin a phased reopening this weekend with some roads, trails and visitor centers still closed to the public.

The park said in a release on Thursday that Newfound Gap, Little River, Cherokee Orchard, Laurel Creek, Cades Cove Loop, Lakeview Drive, and Deep Creek roads will be opened at 8 a.m. Saturday but some trailheads and picnic pavilions will be closed along the routes. Restrooms and picnic areas along the roads will be open, however.

Cades Cove Loop Road will open daily beginning at 8 a.m. to vehicle traffic only with many trailheads not being accessible.

Cades-Cove-biking_Jim-Bennett-4_1_25077570_ver1.0_1530539993497.jpg
Cades Cove Loop Road

The Gatlinburg Bypass and Wear Cove Road will be open as well.

Clingmans Dome, Elkmont, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Tremont, Greenbrier, Cosby, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Abrams Creek, Forge Creek, Rich Mountain, Little Greenbrier, Balsam Mountain, Heintooga Round Bottom, Straight Fork, and Twentymile roads, as well as Route 284, will be open to pedestrians and cyclists only.

Visitor centers and campgrounds will remain closed. Special park use permits will be limited to 10 people at outdoor locations for up to 30 minutes. The National Park Service also released a video highlighting safe social distancing practices to follow while in the park.

Trailheads that are closed include Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Clingmans Dome Tower. Appalachian Trail thru-hiker permits will not be issued for the Deep Creek Road area.

Remember Social Distancing

Dana Soehn, spokesperson for the GSMNP, said those areas were closed because they are known to be more crowded during normal operations.

Because the typically crowded areas are closed, other trail heads could get congested with less trails open.

“People do need to be thinking about congestion when they get to a place like Abram’s Falls trail head and check it out. If you get there late in the day, it may be too crowded for you to have a safe, enjoyable visit,” Soehn said.

Permits for the backcountry off Lakeview Drive and Sugarlands Riding Stables will be issued Saturday.

Additional opening dates

Other opening dates include:

  • LeConte Lodge and Cades Cove Riding Stables on May 18
  • Cades Cove Campstore and Smokemont Riding Stables on May 23

Smoky Mountain Riding Stables reopening is “pending” per the park’s release. These dates are subject to change pending labor availability.

“Our priority remains laser-focused on protecting the health and safety of our employees, our visitors and our volunteers,” Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said.

Bears are active

Remember, bears will still be out and about, and they don’t know about social distancing.

“Bears will be active. Most of the female bears with cubs came out of their dens during the month of April. And so, while they haven’t necessarily been drawn into our campgrounds and picnic areas due to those tantalizing smells, they are active. And people need to remember to keep their food and the trash secured at all times,” Soehn said.

Weather

The National Park warned that inclement weather is expected at higher elevations on Friday evening which could result in a delayed opening for Newfound Gap Road due to ice or snow.

You can follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter for information on weather-related closures and openings for main park roads.

More information

You can also find the latest on park facility access and hours at the park’s conditions website.

Park rangers can answer questions and help with trip planning via email or phone during business hours at 865-436-1291, 828-506-8620, or GRSM_Smokies_Information@nps.gov.

LATEST STORIES

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter