Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains national park seasonal construction road closures and conditions for hiking

Late fall and winter in the Great Smoky Mountains national park means that it's time for seasonal closing of roads, campgrounds and park facilities. Though there is a cold snap in the air, black bear will still be active for a few more weeks so backcountry campsites, shelters and hiking trails have warnings or are still closed.

This year will be changeling for many who want to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the winter and early spring as some of the federal stimulus money is being spent repairing Clingmans Dome Road, the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and finishing off the Foothills Parkway between Wears Valley Road in and Walland.

Though Clingmans Dome Road is a popular road when it is closed for winter for hikers and skiers, it will be closing for all use as this winter it is going to be repaved and new handicapped assessable vault toilets (non flushing outhouse style) will be installed instead of using the historical building now being used as a restroom. This building is going to be converted into a small visitor center and Great Smoky Mountains Association store.

The present toilets in the 60 year old building are not in compliance with current environmental standards nor are they handicapped accessible. I commend what the park is doing to replace the current restrooms at Clingmans Dome as well as turning this historic structure into something which will be very useful to visitors.

Finally what will be the most advantageous project being undergone for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains national park will certainly cause the most grief: The repaving of the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop Road from March to sometime in May.

Long overdue, the repaving project will completely shut this road down to cars, bikers and hikers as well as access to Rich Mountain Road, Parson Branch Road, Forge Creek Road, Sparks Lane and Hyatt Lane as well as the amphitheater in between the Cades Cove Picnic and Campgrounds.

There was no effectively way to partially close the area during construction and visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains national park as well as local businesses will be adversely affected during the construction. Te repaving of Cades Cove will be paid for from monies that have already been put aside for the project and do not involve any federal stimulus money.

Sadly the other roadways close by that hikers also use: the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and Clingmans Dome Road will also be closed to pedestrians during construction. The best places left to visit in the GSMNP via car during construction will be Tremont and the Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina.

Roads Closed in the Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for repaving to all traffic, hikers and bikers starting sometime in March 2010 until at least late May 2010
  • Balsam Mountain Road is now closed for winter until May 8th 2010.
  • Clingmans Dome Road is now closed to vehicles traffic until May 2010 and will be closed to all hikers, bikers and skiers due to repaving starting February 2010.
  • Fontana Dam Access Road to the AT is closed to vehicles (Hikers Allowed) until January 31st, 2010.
  • Heintooga Ridge Road is now closed for winter until May 8th 2010.
  • Little Greenbrier Road is closed for winter from December 31st 2009 until March 13th 2010.
  • Parson Branch Road is closed for the winter and will open in late in April 2010.
  • Rich Mountain Road is now closed for winter until March 13th 2010.
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in now closed to vehicles and will be closed in December to all hikers and bikers starting sometime in February 2010 until May 2010.
  • Roundbottom/Straight Fork is now closed for winter until March 13th 2010.
  • The Sinks Parking Area on Little River Road will be closed due to construction from sometime in December 2009 through May 2010.

Road Construction in the Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Newfound Gap Road (US 441) will have an ongoing paving starting March 16th and expected to be done by September 1st 2010 on the North Carolina side from the Collins Creek Picnic area to the National Park Boundary at Cherokee NC. Expect periodic lane changes

Blue Ride Parkway Road Conditions and Construction

  • North Carolina: Milepost 393.6 to 405.5 Closed due to a high risk of landslides until further notice.
  • Virginia to North Carolina: Milepost 0 to 356 Guardrail replacements will cause traffic to be reduced to 1 lane as work is done through 2010.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Hiking Trail Conditions

Closed GSMNP Hiking Trails

  • Trailhead access from roads within Cosby Campground to Lower Mount Cammerer Trail, Snake Den Ridge Trail, and Low Gap Trail have a detour as long as the campground paving takes place until spring 2010. Use parking areas access by picnic grounds for these trails.
  • Foothills Parkway off Wears Valley Road (US 321) is now open for now to hikers, bikers and horseback riding

Hiking Trail Bear Warnings

  • Abrams Falls Hiking Trail
  • Crooked Arm Ridge Trail mostly on the lower portion
  • Gabes Mountain Trail
  • Laurel Falls Hiking Trail
  • Little River Hiking Trail
  • Trillium Gap Trail from the parking area up to Grotto Falls

GSMNP Hiking Trails Condition Warnings

  • Forney Creek Trail by backcountry Campsite #70 washed out bridge requiring potentially deep stream crossing at Forney Creek
  • Hazel Creek pick up area for boat shuttles near Backcountry campsite #86 has been rerouted to Olie Cove (not on regular trail maps but on some more detailed maps). Ask boat shuttle for further information.
  • Rabbit Creek Trail footbridge has washed out.


Anonymous said...

Does it serve any purpose to close the roads being paved to hikers? I fail to see the purpose.

And, by the way, I fail to see how that can be enforced.

The Park needs to show its normal flexibility and common sense.

And thanks for this very comprehensive update.


Smokies Hiker said...

Construction trucks running back and forth would present a danger to people on the roadways as well as whatever hazardous conditions that may present. They may also be unsecured equipment and materials.

There are radios that can call enforcement in all of the maintenance vehicles and the construction company will also have radios. Everyone in the construction areas which will be marked with large signs knows that no one is allowed in the area.

Though I will miss hiking along the Cades Cove Loop road, I will miss most moonlit hikes up Clingmans Dome Road when the roadway is covered by snow.

As long as there is little or moderate cloud cover, you never need to use a flashlight while on the roadway and the only sound besides the wind is the crunching of snow beneath your feet and an occasional howl of a coyote.

I would love to do this in Cades Cove but when there is snow on the roadway in Cades Cove it is invariable closed because access to the cove and driving around it would be dangerous.