Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopens campgrounds, visitor centers

Sugarlands Visitor Center is ready to welcome back park-goers on June 8 (photo courtesy of GSMNP)
Sugarlands Visitor Center is ready to welcome back park-goers on June 8 (photo courtesy of GSMNP)

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced Friday that some campgrounds, visitor centers, and additional roads will be accessible to visitors as part of the next phase in the park’s plan to restore public access after closing due to coronavirus concerns.

The park continues to increase recreational access and services across the park in alignment with guidance provided by the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and public health authorities.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. Each facility function and service provided is examined to ensure the operations comply with current public health guidance. Park officials continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers,” reads a press release issued by the park.

Beginning on Monday, June 8, the following areas will be accessible:

  • Cades Cove and Smokemont Campgrounds
  • Anthony Creek Horse Camp
  • Sugarlands, Oconaluftee, Cades Cove, and Clingmans Dome Visitor Centers and Great Smoky Mountains Association Bookstores
  • Backcountry Information Office at Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Cable Mill and Mingus Mill
  • Abrams Creek Road
  • Cataloochee Road (to Palmer Chapel only due to road washout)
  • Forge Creek Road
  • Rich Mountain Road

Beginning on Monday, June 15, the following areas will be accessible:

  • Elkmont Road
  • Elkmont Campground
  • Spence Cabin

 

Floor stickers, signs and barriers have been installed inside the park's visitor centers to encourage healthy practices and social distancing. (photo courtesy of GSMNP)
Floor stickers, signs and barriers have been installed inside the park’s visitor centers to encourage healthy practices and social distancing. (photo courtesy of GSMNP)

The park has developed a range of mitigation to support these additional services including installation of protective barriers between staff and visitors; capacity limits for visitor centers; installation of social distancing floor decal reminders; and closure of theater and museum spaces in visitor centers.

At campgrounds, services are limited to online reservations only; restroom facilities are appropriately disinfected and cleaned; and group campsites remain closed. While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased. 

The park provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation with over 800 miles of trails, quiet walkways, and self-guided nature trails where visitors can disperse for a safe hiking experience.

Park managers urge visitors to follow public health guidance for a safe and responsible visit by choosing trails and overlooks without congested parking areas; visiting early in the morning; staying in vehicles while viewing wildlife to avoid crowded conditions; maintaining social distance from other visitors; and wearing face coverings where social distancing is not possible.

For the most up to date information about facility openings, service hours, and access, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm. Park rangers remain available to answer questions and help with trip planning via email or phone during business hours at (865) 436-1291, (828) 506-8620, or [email protected]gov.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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