Updates on Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopening
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park began reopening on May 9! The park will open in phases, the first including many of the trails and roads in the park. The first phase lasted 2 weeks. The second phase kicked off on May 19 with the opening of Clingmans Dome, and more continues to reopen. On Sept. 3, the latest reopenings in the park will occur. Here is everything we know about the reopening:
September 3rd Updates
On September 3, more picnic areas, campgrounds and horse camps are opening in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here is a complete list of what opens Sept. 3:
Campgrounds: Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby
Horse Camps: Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom, Tow String
Picnic Areas: Heintooga, Look Rock
Little Greenbrier Road will also open on Sept. 3.
Keep in mind that 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. Although they’re not required for Cades Cove, Elkmont and Smokemont campgrounds, they are recommended to guarantee you get a great spot.
All park trails backcountry campsites and shelters, visitor centers and restrooms are open in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, the Appalachian Clubhouse, Upper Greenbrier Road and Upper Cataloochee Valley beyond Palmer Chapel remain closed during this time. The closure of Greenbrier Road prevents access to the Greenbrier picnic pavilion, Porters Creek Trail and Brushy Mountain Trail.
What Opened in the National Park on June 8?
Beginning Monday, June 8, more areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have reopened! These areas include campgrounds, visitor centers and more roads. Here is a list of what opened on June 8:
- 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
On June 15, more areas of the park opened, including Elkmont Campground, Elkmont Road and Spence Cabin.
The park has implemented new measures to protect the health and safety 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 the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s reopening phases below!
First Phase of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reopening Info
The first phase of the reopening began on May 9. Many roads and trails throughout the park opened, as well as some picnic sites. This means you can enjoy some of your favorite spots in the Smokies, like Cades Cove! However, campgrounds, visitor centers and some secondary roads are remaining closed during the first phase. This first phase is expected to last at least two weeks. At the end of two weeks, openings and closures will be reevaluated.
What Was Open and Closed in the First Phase?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park released a list of spots in the park you can expect to open or remain closed:
- 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.
All other trails and backcountry campsites not listed above are open with reduced capacity limits.
The following roads remained closed during Phase 1, 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
You can find more information about what’s open and closed on the National Park Service website.
Second Phase of Reopening
Phase 2 of the reopening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was announced with the opening of Clingmans Dome Road and Clingmans Dome Observation Tower on May 19. On May 23, Phase 2 continued with the opening of all trails in the park.
The following roads and sites also opened on May 23:
- 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
Sugarlands Riding Stables, Cades Cove Riding Stables, Cades Cove Campstore, Smokemont Riding Stables and LeConte Lodge are open for visitors to enjoy as well.
What is the Park Doing to Keep Visitors Safe?
The national park said that park managers are working with the National Park Service Office of Public Health and using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to ensure public and workspace safety. New safety measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as areas reopen and to protect both park staff and visitors. Some of those safety measures include:
- Reduced group size limits
- Personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers
- New safety protocols for emergency services staff
- Disinfectant fogging operations for restrooms and public buildings
- Installation of plexiglass shields at visitor centers
Park managers will examine each facility function and service provided to ensure the operations comply with public health guidance.
Ways to Avoid Crowds in the Smoky Mountains
If you do plan to visit the Smoky Mountains, be sure to keep the social distancing guidelines in mind! It’s also important to remember that even though the national park is reopening, not all attractions, restaurants and shops in the area have reopened. You can stay up to date with what’s open and closed in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg here. If you’re hoping to escape to the Smokies and avoid the crowds, we have some helpful tips for you:
Visit early in the morning or late in the evening: Most of the activity in the Smoky Mountains happens during the day. If you’re hoping to hike or take a scenic drive without a lot of people around, try visiting earlier in the morning! Early mornings and late evenings are great times to spot wildlife throughout the park as well. The Gatlinburg Parkway is also less crowded early morning and late evening, so you can avoid some of the traffic and people walking down the street.
Go for a scenic drive: If you want to enjoy the Smokies but don’t feel comfortable being close to a lot of people, go for a scenic drive! You’ll be able to take in the sights from the comfort of your car without coming in contact with anyone else. The popular Cades Cove Loop Road opens May 9 for visitors to explore!
Stay in a cabin: Gatlinburg cabins are perfect for social distancing. After you enjoy the fresh mountain air in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, return to your cabin for a relaxing evening. You’ll have everything you need right in your cabin, including a full kitchen to prepare meals! All you have to do is pick up some groceries from a nearby store. Some cabins have added entertainment, like game rooms, home theaters and indoor pools! Avoid the crowds downtown by spending your vacation enjoying everything your cabin has to offer.
Check out all the best deals on cabins in the Smoky Mountains for the perfect place to stay when you visit to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!