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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the U.S. which attracted over 12.5 million visitors in 2019, begins phase one of their post-coronavirus reopening plan today, Saturday May 9, with a large number of roads, trails, picnic areas and restrooms now accessible to the general public after being closed for nearly two months.
The park originally closed on March 24 amid coronavirus concerns, citing fears of over-crowding.
According to the National Park Service (NPS), at the time of closure, the park was receiving nearly 30,000 daily visitors which resulted in potentially unsafe, congested conditions at popular locations.
According to the NPS, the following picnic areas, roads and facilities are now open:
- Newfound Gap Road
- Little River Road
- Cherokee Orchard Road
- Laurel Creek Road
- Cades Cove Loop (open daily at 8am)
- Lakeview Drive Road
- Deep Creek Road
- Gatlinburg Bypass
- Wear Cove Gap Road
- Restrooms at Newfound Gap
- Restrooms at Sugarlands Visitor Center
- Restrooms at Oconaluftee Visitor Center
- Restrooms near Cable Mill in Cades Cove
- Restrooms at Abrams Falls Trailhead
- Restrooms at Rainbow Falls Trailhead
- Restrooms at all open picnic areas (see below)
Open Picnic Areas
- Chimney Tops Picnic Area
- Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area (pavilion closed)
- Collins Creek Picnic Area (pavilion closed)
- Deep Creek Picnic Area (pavilion closed)
- Cades Cove Picnic Area
Open Riding Stables
- Sugarlands Riding Stables
Other areas in the park are either opening in a limited capacity or are set to open in the future, however, as the NPS reminds us, these dates are subject to change:
Roads Open to Pedestrians and Cyclists Only
- Clingman’s Dome Road
- Elkmont Road
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Tremont Road
- Greenbriar Road
- Cosby Road
- Big Creek Road
- Hwy 284
- Cataloochee Road
- Abrams Creek Road
- Forge Creek Road
- Rich Mountain Road
- Little Greenbrier Road
- Balsam Mountain Road
- Heintooga Round Bottom Road
- Straight Fork Road
- Twentymile Road
Concessions and Operations Opening Soon
- Smoky Mountain Riding Stables – Reopening TBD
- Cades Cove Riding Stables – Opens May 18
- Cades Cove Campstore – Opens May 23
- Smokemont Riding Stables – Opens May 23
- LeConte Lodge – Opens May 18
- All visitor centers are closed until further notice, however some have open restrooms available (listed above).
Special park use permits remain limited to small groups of up to 10 people, for only 30 minutes at a time. All other trails, campsites and shelters are open with reduced capacity limits however many trailheads will not be accessible due to road access limitations. The NPS is urging hikers to plan ahead and choose routes with accessible trailheads for parking, and encourages all patrons to practice social distancing within the park as much as possible.
For additional information about these openings and how the NPS is keeping you safe in the Smokies, check out the park’s official website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/
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