Great Smoky Mountains National Park Opening Facilities For Summer Season

With spring colors beginning to sweep across Great Smoky Mountains National Park, crews are opening facilities and secondary roads for the summer season. NPS photo of redbuds in bloom.

Some secondary roads and campgrounds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are scheduled to open today, marking the start of the park's summer season as crews work to open roads and facilities that have been closed all winter.

Here, courtesy of park officials, is the schedule of facility/road openings:

Roads

* Little Greenbrier, Rich Mountain, Straight Fork/Round Bottom, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail were scheduled to open today, March 11.

* Clingmans Dome Road is set to open on April 1.

* The Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads will open on May 13.

* Forge Creek and Parson Branch Roads will have a delayed opening due to unseasonable wet weather. The roads are expected to open early spring.

March Visitor Center Hours

* Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

* Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, Tennessee, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

* Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Campgrounds

Recreation.gov provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, all across the U.S. Great Smoky now has five of its 10 developed campgrounds on the reservation system. Cataloochee campground was added this year in addition to Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations six months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance.

To make reservations at the five campgrounds, and all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters, visitors can go to www.Recreation.gov or, alternatively, book reservations by calling 877-444-6777.

Campgrounds open on a staggered basis starting today, March 11. For the five campgrounds on Recreation.gov, reservations are required at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15-October 31 (for other dates the three campgrounds are first come, first serve); Cataloochee Campground--all sites must be reserved throughout its season; and Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-served campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites during its season. Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site/night.

Campers have an opportunity to camp in “generator free” campsites at three campgrounds: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. Campers can reserve a site in the generator-free loop sections of Cades Cove, Smokemont, and Elkmont campgrounds.

Group Camping will be available at seven campgrounds and reservations must be made through Recreation.gov. Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. The cost for group camping ranges from $26 to $65 per site/night.

Horse Camps at Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Towstring will open April 1 and reservations are only available through Recreation.gov. The horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.

CAMPGROUND SCHEDULE

Campgrounds Fee Open Group Sites

North Carolina:

Balsam Mountain $14 May 13

Big Creek $14 March 11 March 11

Cataloochee $20 March 11 March 11

Deep Creek $17 April 1 April 1

*Smokemont $17, $20 Year-round March 11

Tennessee:

Abrams Creek $14 March 11

*Cades Cove $17, $20 Year-round March 11

Cosby $14 March 11 March 11

*Elkmont $17, $20 March 11 March 11

Look Rock $14 May 13

*$20 per site during the reservation period May 15-October 31. At Elkmont, riverside sites are $23 during reservation period only.

Picnic Areas

There are 10 first-come, first-serve picnic areas.

Open all year are Big Creek, Cades Cove, Chimney Tops, Cosby, Greenbrier, Deep Creek, and Metcalf Bottoms. Collins Creek Picnic Area was scheduled to open today, March 11, and Heintooga and Look Rock are scheduled to open on May 13.

The park’s largest picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservations are required through Recreation.gov only. Twin Creeks fees range from $35-$75 depending on the number of people.

In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions on Recreation.gov. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas. The cost is $20, except at Greenbrier where it is $10.

Horseback Riding

The opening dates for the three horseback concessions located on the Tennessee side of the Park are: Smoky Mountain Riding Stable on March 4; Sugarlands Riding Stable on March 11; and Cades Cove is scheduled on March 13. In addition to horseback rides, which cost $25 per horse per rider, Cades Cove Riding Stable will offer their customary carriage rides and hay rides, and wheelchair accessible carriage and hay rides. The Smokemont Riding Stable in North Carolina will open March 26 and will provide visitors with a chance to experience a horse-drawn wagon ride along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike.

LeConte Lodge

LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 21. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865/429-5704, fax 865/774-0045 or email the lodge. One night at the lodge costs $116 per adult and $85 for children 10 and under (tax not included). The price includes two meals--dinner and breakfast. Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag or dining room lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge. Reservations are required for the dining room lunch.

Campground Concessions

The Cades Cove Campground Store opened March 5. The store provides groceries, camping supplies, firewood, ice, vending, limited food service, souvenirs, and bike rentals. The Cades Cove Store has multi-speed comfort or mountain bikes available for rent, in addition to single speed cruisers.

The Elkmont Campground concession was scheduled to open today, March 11. The concession provides firewood, ice, limited camper convenience items, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks.