Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials finalized the 2019 spring opening schedule for park facilities. Most campgrounds, picnic areas, and roads will open this Friday, April 19, in time for Easter weekend. The remainder of the facilities will open between now and Memorial Day weekend in preparation for the busy summer season.
“Our staff has worked diligently over the last several weeks to complete the hiring process for our seasonal workforce and ready facilities for openings across the park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “In addition to de-winterizing water treatment and waste-water systems, crews have been busy clearing fallen trees and limbs from multiple wind events this winter. I’m proud of our staff for their exceptional efforts in preparing the park for the upcoming season.”
See the full opening schedule listed below:
Roads – Secondary Roads are scheduled to open as follows: Clingmans Dome Road opened on March 30; Rich Mountain Road, Forge Creek Road, Little Greenbrier Road, and Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open on April 19; Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will open May 1, and Balsam Mountain Road and Heintooga Ridge Road will open on May 17. Due to road damage and hazard trees, Parson Branch Road will remain closed in 2019. Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for bicycle use only on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 8 through September 25.
Campgrounds - Cades Cove and Smokemont campgrounds are open year-round. The remainder of the campgrounds opens on a staggered schedule that started on March 8. See the following schedule for exact dates. The park’s developed campgrounds of Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system through Recreation.gov for at least a portion of their seasons. Recreation.gov provides visitors with an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, across the country. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance. Visitors can make reservations at these eight campgrounds, all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters by booking sites online at www.Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.
Advance reservations are required at Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, and Cataloochee Campground throughout the entire season. Reservations are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15 through October 31. At these three campgrounds, campers also have an opportunity to reserve a generator-free campsite. Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-serve campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites.
Group Camping is available at the following seven campgrounds by reservation only through Recreation.gov: Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. See the following schedule for exact dates.
Horse Camps are available by reservation only through Recreation.gov at Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Round Bottom, Tow String and Cataloochee. See the following schedule for exact dates.
Picnic Areas at Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, and Metcalf Bottoms are open year-round. Chimneys picnic area opened for limited access on April 1. Chimneys picnic area will open fully on April 19 and Collins Creek picnic area will open on April 19. Big Creek and Cosby picnic areas will open April 19. Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Pavilion will open on April 19. Heintooga picnic area will open on May 17. Look Rock picnic area is scheduled to open by late summer with limited services.
The park’s largest picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opened on March 29 and reservations are required through Recreation.gov. Twin Creeks’ fees range from $40-$80 depending on the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions on Recreation.gov. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas. The cost is $25, except at Greenbrier where it is $12.50.
Operating Hours for Backcountry Office – The Backcountry Office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open every day from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Backcountry reservations and permits can also be obtained online at smokiespermits.nps.gov or by calling 865-436-1297.
Horseback Riding - The opening dates for the three horseback concessions located on the Tennessee side of the Park are: Sugarlands Riding Stable on March 1; and Cades Cove on March 2; and Smoky Mountain Riding Stable on March 8. In addition to horseback rides, Cades Cove Riding Stable will offer their customary carriage rides and hay rides which are wheelchair accessible. The Smokemont Riding Stable in North Carolina opened March 16 providing guided horseback rides along with horse-drawn wagon rides along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike.
LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, opened on March 25. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865-429-5704, fax 865-774-0045, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. One night at the lodge costs $151.50 per adult and $87.50 for children 4-12 (tax not included). Children 3 and under are free. The price includes two meals--dinner and breakfast. Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge.
Campground Concessions – The Cades Cove Campground Store opened March 1. The store provides groceries, camping supplies, firewood, ice, vending, limited food service, souvenirs, and bike rentals. The Cades Cove Store has multi-speed comfort bikes, single-speed cruisers, and electric-assist bikes for rent. The Elkmont Campground concession opened March 8. The concession provides firewood, ice, limited camper convenience items, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks.
For more information on park events, please visit the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/calendar.htm.