Chimney Tops Trail Rehabilitation Continues
Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have announced that the first phase of the rehabilitation of the popular Chimney Tops Trail, from the trailhead to the junction with the Road Prong Trail, has been completed. On Friday, October 19th, the trail will be open all week until the second phase of the trail rehabilitation begins in late April of 2013. The Chimney Tops Trailhead is located along Newfound Gap Road about 8 miles south of the Park's Gatlinburg, TN entrance.
The combination of heavy use, abundant rainfall, and steep terrain turned the Chimney Tops Trail into 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. The crew 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, improved drainage by modifying water bars or constructing other types of drainage structures, and built raised turnpike structures out of sustainable materials to prevent further erosion.
Phase Two will consist of the rehabilitation of 0.4 miles of trail from the junction with Road Prong Trail to the first left hand switchback leaving the steep drainage. This section represents the most continuous technical trail reconstruction needed on the entire rehabilitation project. During Phase Two, the trail will again be closed each Monday through Thursday from late April through October to safely accommodate trail rebuilding activities which include moving and breaking large rock.
Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Friends of the Smokies who donated $121,000 this year to support the program, and the generosity of the Knoxville 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 (clearing windfalls, mowing/pruning and 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.
The Park invites interested trail work volunteers to visit the Trails Forever website at www.smokiestrailsforever.org. or contact Trails & Facilities Volunteer Coordinator at (828) 497-1949 for more information.