Posted By Blog Bear on May 16, 2011
April 27 Tornado Prompts Closure of Seven Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails
Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the National Weather Service have determined that a severe EF 4 tornado swept across the northwestern corner of the Park last Wednesday causing extensive damage to seven park trails. The popular Abrams Falls Trail remains impassable due to numerous blow downs and over 40 areas where root balls were ripped out of the trail surface leaving hot-tub sized craters. Park managers hope to have Abrams Falls Trail reopened by Memorial Day.
After an inspection of other trails in the affected area, managers have announced the full closure of all or parts of seven trails totaling 22 miles. A survey by trail workers shows a total of over 4,500 trees down on the closed sections with some areas resembling jackstraws for over a mile at a time. They also counted over a thousand areas where trees were blown down and their roots tore gaps in the trail. In addition to all of the Abrams Falls Trail, the following trails are now officially closed to both hikers and equestrians until further notice:
Rabbit Creek Trail from its trailhead at Abrams Creek Ranger Station to Hannah Mountain Junction (although campsite #16 remains open)
Rabbit Creek Trail from campsite #17 to the Hatcher Mtn. Trail Jct. (campsite #17 is open)
The 5.1 mile section of Rabbit Creek Trail between its trailhead at Cades
Cove and the junction with Hannah Mountain Trail is now closed. That also
results in the closure of campsite #15
Hannah Mountain Trail from Rabbit Creek Trail to Abrams Creek
Hatcher Mountain Trail – entire trail
Beard Cane Trail – entire trail (backcountry campsites #3 and #11 are closed)
Ace Gap Trail – entire trail
Total closed trail mileage is now 27 miles.
"We have closed the trails because hiking or riding them involves picking your way through a huge number of hazardous obstacles." Park Chief Ranger Clay Jordan said, "But to make matters worse, our ability to send rescuers in to extract anybody who is injured is seriously compromised."
Park managers stress that no Park roads are affected by the storm damage, and that the remainder of the Park’s 800 miles of trails remain open. In the Cades Cove area visitors are encouraged to consider alternative trails such as Rich Mountain Loop, Cooper Road, Gregory Ridge, or Anthony Creek Trails. Access to Gregory Bald via Parson Branch Road is also unaffected. Visitors can stop at any Park visitor center for advice or access a pdf map noting affected trails by clicking the link below.
Click here to access pdf map