Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopening Updates
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park began reopening on May 9! If you’ve been missing going for a hike through the Smoky Mountains, your wait is over. The reopening will happen in phases, and the first of which included many of the hiking trails and roads. The second phase includes all the trails and more secondary roads. Now, more areas in the the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are opening Sept. 3. We’ve gathered all the information we can about the national park reopening:
September 3rd Reopenings
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is reopening more of its picnic areas, campgrounds and horse camps on Sept. 3! These areas include the following:
- Abrams Creek Campground
- Balsam Mountain Campground
- Big Creek Campground
- Cataloochee Campground
- Cosby Campground
- Big Creek Horse Camp
- Cataloochee Horse Camp
- Round Bottom Horse Camp
- Tow String Horse Camp
- Heintooga Picnic Area
- Look Rock Picnic Area
- Little Greenbrier Road
Areas that remain closed are the Appalachian Clubhouse, Upper Greenbrier Road, and Upper Cataloochee Valley Road beyond Palmer Chapel. The Greenbrier Road closure prevents access to the Greenbrier picnic pavilion, Porters Creek Trail and Brushy Mountain Trail. All other park trails, backcountry campsites and shelters, visitor centers and restrooms are open in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Reservations are required at Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Anthony Creek, Round Bottom and Tow String campgrounds and horse camps, and are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont and Smokemont Campgrounds.
June 8th Reopenings
On June 8th, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened some of its campgrounds, visitor centers and more roads. Here is a full list of what opened on June 8th:
- 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
- Rich Mountain Road
- Abrams Creek Road
- Cataloochee Road (to Palmer Chapel only)
- Forge Creek Road
A week later, on June 15th, more areas opened, including Elkmont Campground, Elkmont Road and Spence Cabin.
With these new openings comes new measures to protect the health of visitors and staff. These safety measures include:
- Capacity limits at visitor centers
- Social distancing floor decal reminders
- Protective barriers between staff members and visitors
- Closure of theater and museum spaces in visitor centers
- Online reservations only for campgrounds
- Restroom facilities disinfected and cleaned appropriately
You can find more details on what’s open and closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park below!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park First Reopening Phase
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced that the reopening will happen in phases. The first phase, which began May 9, included a majority of the trails and roads throughout the park. This phase was expected to last at least 2 weeks. During this phase, campgrounds, visitor centers and many secondary roads remain closed.
Hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains that remained closed during the first phase are: Laurel Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail and Chimney Tops Trail, along with the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. In addition, Appalachian Trail thru-hiker permits will not be issued. All other trails are open for you to hike!
Here is a more specific list of what’s open and closed during the first phase:
- Newfound Gap Road: Open
- Sugarlands Visitor Center Restroom: Open
- Chimney Tops Picnic Area: Open
- Laurel Falls Trail: Closed
- Gatlinburg Bypass: Open
- Newfound Gap Restroom: Open
- Alum Cave Trail: Closed
- Little River Road: Open
- Oconaluftee Visitor Center Restroom: Open
- Cades Cove Picnic Area: Open
- Chimney Tops Trail: Closed
- Wear Cove Road: Open
- Cades Cove Cable Mill Restroom: Open
- Clingmans Dome Observation Tower: Closed
- Laurel Creek Road: Open
- Abrams Falls Trailhead Restroom: Open
- Cades Cove Loop Road: Open
- Rainbow Falls Trailhead Restroom: Open
- Cherokee Orchard Road: Open
- Metcalf Bottoms Pavilion: Closed
- Deep Creek Pavilion: Closed
- Collins Creek Pavilion: Closed
- AT Thru-Hiker Permits will not be issued.
The following roads remained closed on May 9, but were open for pedestrians and cyclists:
Clingmans Dome Road, Elkmont Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Tremont Road, Greenbrier Road, Cosby Road, Big Creek Road, Cataloochee Road, Abrams Creek Road, Forge Creek Road, Rich Mountain Road, Little Greenbrier Road, Balsam Mountain Road, Heintooga Round Bottom Road, Straight Fork Road.
Second Reopening Phase
Phase 2 of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s reopening began on May 19 with the opening of Clingmans Dome Road and Observation Tower. The phase continued on May 23, when all trails officially opened in the park! The following roads and sites in the park opened on May 23 too:
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Big Creek Road
- Big Creek Picnic Area
- Cosby Road
- Cosby Picnic Area
- Greenbrier Road (to Ramsey Cascades Trailhead only)
- Tremont Road
In addition, Sugarlands Riding Stables, Cades Cove Riding Stables, Cades Cove Campstore, Smokemont Riding Stables and LeConte Lodge are now open.
You can find more information about what’s open and closed on the National Park Service website.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s top priority during this time is the safety of its visitors and staff. Park managers are working closely with the National Park Service Office of Public Health, using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to ensure public and workspace safety. The following safety measures have been put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when things reopen:
- Installation of plexiglass shields at visitor centers
- Disinfectant fogging operations for restrooms and public buildings
- Personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers
- New safety protocols for emergency services staff
- Reduced group size limits
Park managers are examining each facility function and service provided to ensure the operations comply with public health guidance.
Why Now is a Great Time to Go Hiking in the Smoky Mountains
If you’ve been missing the fresh Smoky Mountain air, you’re in need of a hiking trip. Hiking is a great way to be active and enjoy the beauty of the Smokies up close, all while following social distancing guidelines. Along your hiking trip, you’ll have the opportunity to see gorgeous views of the mountains, wildlife, waterfalls, historic structures and more. We know you can’t wait to get back to exploring your favorite place! Spending time outside in the Smoky Mountains has also proven to reduce stress levels, so if you’ve had a lot on your mind lately, a hike is just what you need.
Your safety is what matters most when you return to the Smoky Mountains. For more information on how you can stay safe, check out these 9 safety tips for when you go hiking in the Smoky Mountains.