Smokies Continue Phased Reopening; AT Permits Still not Being Issued

(Updated 9 a.m. MT, May 23) The Smokies continued a phased reopening, more than a month after the park closed for all uses.

The reopening was announced by Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a news release here that said the park will reopen many roads and trails.

Appalachian Trail thru-hiker permits will not be issued yet, according to a park statement here. Backcountry permits were available starting May 9.

“Campgrounds, picnic pavilions, visitor centers, and many secondary roads will remain closed during the first reopening phase, which is expected to last for at least two weeks.” the park said in its release. “Some of these measures will include disinfectant fogging operations for restrooms and public buildings, installation of plexiglass shields at visitor centers, personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers, new safety protocols for emergency services staff, and reduced group size limits.”

“We recognize this closure has been extremely difficult for our local residents, as well as park visitors from across the country, who seek the park as a special place for healing, exercise, recreation, and inspiration,” Superintendent Cassius Cash said. “We are approaching this phased reopening with that in mind, as we balance our responsibility to protect park resources and the health and safety of everyone.”

Farther north on the AT, Baxter State Park in Maine, the Northern Terminus at Mount Katahdin, remains closed to travel above treeline, camping, and vehicle traffic until further notice, with a target opening date of July 1, the park said April 14.

All Katahdin and Traveler trails will be closed at the trailheads.

The park will remain open below treeline for walk-in use.

Many AT thru-hikers who delayed NOBO hikes from Springer Mountain in Georgia this year had hoped to complete a SOBO hike from Katahdin. An opening day of July 1 would push back starting dates for hikers hoping to leave in June.

The park said it was following the recommendations of the federal CDC, the Maine CDC, the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency, and the park medical director.

The Appalachian Mountain Club also announced here on April 30 that its White Mountains huts on the AT will be closed for all of 2020.

The AMC’s White Mountains hiker shuttle is also closed for 2020.


Lead image via Pixabay.

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