Extensive rehabilitation work on the Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will require that it be closed to the public Mondays through Thursdays through mid-October.
The combination of heavy use, abundant rainfall, and steep terrain turned the Chimney Tops Trail into what the park described as "a badly eroded obstacle course of slick, broken rock, exposed tree roots, and mud."
"Since April 2012, the park's Trails Forever crew has been rebuilding the trail using durable stone and rot-resistant black locust timbers that will stabilize the trail for decades to come, reducing annual maintenance and greatly improving the visitor experience," a park release added.
'We regret the temporary inconvenience to hikers, but the weekday closures are necessary to ensure that our crew and visitors are safe while trail construction activities take place,' said Acting Superintendent Pedro Ramos. 'The restoration work our team is doing on the trail is amazing and I know these efforts will be appreciated and enjoyed by hikers well into the future.'
The crew has constructed rock steps to carry hikers up the steepest areas and prevent erosion, redefined sections of trail that have become unsafe or difficult to navigate, and improved drainage by modifying water bars or constructing other types of drainage structures.
Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Friends of the Smokies who donated $200,000 this year to support the program, and the generosity of the Knoxville. Tenn.-based Aslan Foundation.
With 848 miles of hiking trails, an average of more than 80 inches of rain a year, and significant forest vegetation, trail crews at Great Smoky Mountains National Park focus their efforts primarily on cyclic maintenance to keep the trails open by clearing windfalls, mowing/pruning edges, and improving drainage. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on the high use and high priority trails in the park. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.