Smokies, Shenandoah Reopen as Government Shutdown Ends

Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks—key waypoints on the Appalachian Trail—fully reopened Saturday, Jan. 26, as the partial federal government shutdown ended.

Great Smoky Mountains park visitor centers are now accessible seven days a week and reservation services for the frontcountry and backcountry are fully operational, according to the Smokies Facebook page. Backcountry permits are required for AT thru-hikers traversing the Smokies.

Some basic services continued to be available in the Smokies during the shutdown through a combination of donated money and revenue generated by recreation fees.

Shenandoah National Park said on its Facebook page that regular winter operations resumed Saturday, Jan. 26.

Park workers resumed collecting entrance fees on Sunday, Jan. 27. Skyline Drive is open from Front Royal to mile 63 at Route 33; the southern section remains closed because of storm damage.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy advised hikers that because volunteer workers did not do any trail maintenance during the shutdown there may be hazardous conditions on trail from downed trees and other storm damage.

The shutdown’s effect on national parks has been varied. Arizona provided state money to keep Grand Canyon National Park open; trees were cut and graffiti painted on rocks at Joshua Tree National Park in California as the park struggled to maintain services with reduced staffing.

The 35-day shutdown ended Friday, Jan. 25, with an agreement by President Donald Trump and Congress to reach a deal on border security by Feb. 15. Failure to reach an agreement by then could lead to another shutdown.

Lead image provided by Nadine Symons.

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