If you’ve made plans to hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park this week, inquire about trail closings before you leave home. Five of the park’s trails have been closed as crews deal with wild fires and flare-ups.
As of 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, the closed trails included the Laurel Falls Trail, Roundtop Trail, Little Greenbrier Trail at Wear Cove Road, Little Brier Gap Trail, and Cove Mountain Trail. If you are familiar with the park, you know that several of these trails intersect within relatively short distances in a very scenic area west of the Sugarland Visitor Center on the park's northern margin.
For more information about the trails, have a look at the park's Trail Map. (You'll be able to read it better if you crank the resolution to 125%.) Also check out the day-hiking and backpacking information at this site.
The trail closings were prompted by three significant wildfires and additional fires resulting from flare-ups.
The Laurel Falls II Fire, which was apparently started by an illegal campfire, originated at Laurel Falls about five miles west of Gatlinburg. The associated closing of the Laurel Falls Trail is unfortunate, since it is one of the park’s most popular trails.
A second fire was being fought in the Cobbly Knob community (east of Gatlinburg) with the help of numerous local fire fighting agencies. The roads forming the right-of-way boundaries of the park-owned Foothills Parkway have hemmed in that fire.
Yet another wildfire, the Stony Ridge Fire, started in the Big Cove community of the Qualla Boundary Reservation (near Cherokee, North Carolina). While this fire is sizeable, having burned as much as 1,500 acres by late Monday, only a small portion is within the park. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is addressing this fire with help from park firefighters.
Flare-ups -- fires that have smoldered and re-ignited – are also causing some headaches in the Wear Cove Cap vicinity, where a prescribed burn was conducted on April 17.