Great Smoky Mountains National Park releases initial reopening plan

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin a phased reopening this weekend with some roads, trails and visitor centers still closed to the public.

The park said in a release on Thursday that Newfound Gap, Little River, Cherokee Orchard, Laurel Creek, Cades Cove Loop, Lakeview Drive, and Deep Creek roads will be opened at 8 a.m. Saturday but some trailheads and picnic pavilions will be closed along the routes. Rests rooms and picnic areas along the roads will be open, however.

Cades Cove Loop Road will open daily beginning at 8 a.m. to vehicle traffic only with many trailheads not being accessible.

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Cades Cove Loop Road

The Gatlinburg Bypass and Wear Cove Road will be open as well.

Clingmans Dome, Elkmont, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Tremont, Greenbrier, Cosby, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Abrams Creek, Forge Creek, Rich Mountain, Little Greenbrier, Balsam Mountain, Heintooga Round Bottom, Straight Fork, and Twentymile roads, as well as Route 284, will be open to pedestrians and cyclists only.

Visitor centers and campgrounds will remain closed. Special park use permits will be limited to 10 people at outdoor locations for up to 30 minutes. The National Park Service also released a video highlighting safe social distancing practices to follow while in the park.

Trailheads that are closed include Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Clingmans Dome Tower. Appalachian Trail thru-hiker permits will not be issued for the Deep Creek Road area.

Permits for the backcountry off Lakeview Drive and Sugarlands Riding Stables will be issued Saturday.

Other opening dates include LeConte Lodge and Cades Cove Riding Stables on May 18, and Cades Cove Campstore and Smokemont Riding Stables on May 23. Smoky Mountain Riding Stables reopening is “pending” per the park’s release. These dates are subject to change pending labor availability.

“Our priority remains laser-focused on protecting the health and safety of our employees, our visitors and our volunteers,” Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said.

The National Park warned that inclement weather is expected at higher elevations on Friday evening which could result in a delayed opening for Newfound Gap Road due to ice or snow. You can follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter for information on weather-related closures and openings for main park roads.

You can also find the latest on park facility access and hours at the park’s conditions website.

Park rangers can answer questions and help with trip planning via email or phone during business hours at 865-436-1291, 828-506-8620, or GRSM_Smokies_Information@nps.gov.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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