Dealing with the aftermath of two major storms while preparing for what could be another record-breaking visitor season, trail crews in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been keeping busy this spring. Three major projects are taking place in addition to the normal routine spring cleaning that our crews do, along with storm damage that we’ve had from several different wind events. These include Indian Creek Falls Trail near Bryson City, reconstruction of a washed-out foot log on the Ramsey Cascades Trail and a complete overhaul of the Rainbow Falls Trail, a two-year-long project that started May 8.
The NPS is also dealing with the aftermath of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire, which swept through the park and down into Gatlinburg last November, killing 14 people and causing $500 million worth of property damage. It also wreaked havoc on several well-loved trails, spurring long-term closures for the Chimney Tops, Bull Head, Sugarland Mountain and Rough Creek trails. The park hopes to get a section of the Chimney Tops Trail open this year, allowing visitors to hike as far as overlook to see the chimneys from a distance — the chimneys themselves were heavily burned and the soil there is dangerously unstable.
On top of the fire damage, a severe windstorm rattled the park on Monday, May 4, mainly on the Tennessee side. Winds reached a peak of 98 miles per hour between 11 a.m. and noon, decreasing to 70 and 80 miles per hour into the evening, with sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. Trees fell and branches broke, blocking roads and trails, and spurring park facilities to close for the day. The windstorm didn’t result in any official trail closures, but some trails are simply impassible.
The following list includes some conditions that the park is currently aware of.
Cosby Nature Trail was impacted by flash flood, resulting in a bridge being washed out. While the trail remains open, be prepared to ford the stream.
Rabbit Creek Trail - the bridge where the trail crosses Abrams Creek is out. This is a wide crossing that may be deep during high water events.
Boogerman/Caldwell Fork trails - several bridges are out. No schedule for repairs at this time. Trails are open, but be prepared to ford the streams.
Enloe Creek Trail - the footbridge crossing Enloe Creek has washed out. The steel bridge crossing Raven Fork is not affected.
Trails throughout the park have downed trees due to severe storms. Please see the list of closed trails above. Other trails may have areas that are difficult to negotiate due to downed trees.
Boat shuttles to and from Hazel Creek when lake levels are low are from the Ollie Cove Trailhead on the Hazel Creek embayment. Ask the shuttle service about this when making a reservation to be dropped or picked up. This is due to a bridge that is out of service on Hazel Creek and adds about 1/2 mile to the hike. Trail signs are in place to direct you from the Hazel Creek Trail and Lakeshore Trail intersection to Ollie Cove Trail that is one mile east on Lakeshore Trail from Hazel Creek.