On March 24, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions typically visit the park each year, and cities such as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg thrive off of the people it draws in.
Now, with the state of Tennessee reopening some businesses on May 1, the Smoky Mountains National Park is planning to reopen as well.
The park announced it will begin a phased reopening on May 9. WBIR News cites the park’s announcement about its reopening.
Here is a list of what will be available and allowed in the park when it reopens on May 9th:
- Nearly all main/core roads will reopen. These include Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, and Cades Cove.
- All park restrooms on the reopened roads will be accessible. Adequate PPE and fogging machines have been obtained in order to maintain cleanliness in the reopened restrooms.
- Visitors can hike, walk the trails, and ride bikes in areas of the park that have reopened.
- Backcountry camping will also be allowed, though no more than ten visitors can be present at a shelter area.
The park’s announcement states the first phase of reopening “is expected to last for at least two weeks.” During that time, secondary roads, remote areas, visitor centers, picnic pavilions, and campgrounds will remain closed.
— Smoky Mountains (@AbouttheSmokies) April 30, 2020
These areas of the park will reopen once certain precautions are taken. Restrooms and public buildings will be fogged, plexiglass shields will be installed at visitor centers, and there will be a size limit placed on groups.
Dan Soehn, a spokesperson for the park, encourages visitors to maintain social distancing and says people should avoid crowded areas.
“Try to choose some of the areas that are not usually as busy” said Soehn. “If you get to a parking lot that’s full, choose another destination. That’s a sure sign that trail is going to be too crowded for proper social distancing.”
Hopefully all goes well with the park’s phased reopening so people can get back to enjoying its beauty and all it has to offer.
Learn more about the park’s plans to reopen by tuning in to the clip below.