• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Chimney Tops Trail Closure Information

The Chimney Tops Trail will be closed until June 30, 2013 to repair a bridge that was damaged by a flood. After June 30, the trail will be closed on Mondays through Thursdays until mid-October to complete trail improvements. The trail will be open on Fridays through Sundays during this time.

 
Trail Map with Chimney Tops Highlighted
Trail map with the Chimney Tops Trail highlighted.
 

The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of its length and spectacular views. So, why close it? During the trail closure the Trails Forever Crew will be completing highly technical trail reconstruction projects to improve and stabilize the trail. This investment will ultimately protect the resources and enhance the visitor's experience.

The Chimney Tops Trail is 1,400 feet in 2 miles which makes for a steep trail. Add 80 to 100 inches of rain a year in the Smokies to a steep trail and the effect is severe trail erosion. This trail is also excessively wide in sections due to the amount of poeple that hike it each year, and there are sections of trail that are down to exposed bedrock which can be hazardeous to cross and exposed root systems that can be challenging to navigate.

 
Exposed bedrock and roots before trail reconstruction
Exposed bedrock (left) and exposed roots (right) before trail reconstruction.
 

The Chimney Tops trail reconstruction projects will include installing:

  • trail drainage -- waterbars, inside drains to catch seeps, removing the outer edge of the trail trench and/or recontouring the trail to allow water to shed
  • new handrail systems on the trail bridges -- constructed out of locust wood material
  • elevated turnpikes -- two sided structures that raise the trail surface and allow water to flow around and under them
  • rock steps and staircases -- using big rocks as the steps and the trail surface
 
Wide area of impact and trail trenching before trail reconstruction
Wide area of impact (right) and trail trenching (left) before reconstruction.
 

While this construction is in progress, the crew will be using rigging equipment to move big rocks, rock drills to break, shape, and build with rock, as well as using other power and hand tools to complete the projects. This work is complex and allowing hikers to pass through these areas while the work is being done would be hazardeous to the visitors as well as the Trails Forever Crew.

A similar Trails Forever reconstruction project has been completed on the Forney Ridge Trail between Clingmans Dome and Andrews Bald. The improvements are dramatic and will be long-lasting! Click here to see before and after photos of the completed work.

The Trails Forever program, a partnership between the park and the Friends of the Smokies, allows a skilled trail crew to focus on necessary trail reconstruction projects throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you are interested in volunteering with the National Park Service trail crew while they work on the Chinmey Tops Trail, please contact the Trails & Facilities Volunteer Coordinator.

During this trail closure, there are many other great hikes to consider throughout the park. You could take a hike along a rushing mountain creek to the 80' high Rainbow Falls, hike through cool and shady high elevation forests to the wide open Andrews Bald, hike through a rock arch on a scenic trail to Alum Cave Bluffs, or hike along the world-famous Appalachian Trail to a picturesque stone outcrop known as Charlies Bunion.

These are just a few of the many trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that are waiting to be explored!

 

Did You Know?

Fontana Lake is formed by Fontana Dam.

At 480 feet, Fontana Dam, located on the southwestern boundary of the park, is the tallest concrete dam east of the Rocky Mountains. The dam impounds the Little Tennessee River forming Fontana Lake and produces hydroelectric power. More...