The Trails Forever program is the signature fundraising initiative connected to Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 75th anniversary celebration. The Trails Forever endowment will fund an additional permanent trail maintenance work crew that will support trail improvement projects along the 800+ miles of hiking trails within the Park.
Completed projects by Trails Forever have already had a positive impact for hikers in the Smokies. The following are some of the improvements hikers can already enjoy and appreciate as a result of the new crew:
Jakes Creek Trail - The Jakes Creek Trail was the first trail project completed by the Trails Forever crew. The popular 2.9 mile trail located in the Elkmont area of the park had been severely eroded in places from years of hiking and horse use. The Trails Forever crew installed new water bars to improve drainage, leveled and rebuilt the trail surface in badly damaged areas, and installed turnpikes (elevated trail surfaces) in marshy or flood-prone areas.
Baskins Creek Trail - Baskins Creek is a 2.7 mile trail located along the Roaring Fork motor trail near Gatlinburg. The Baskins Creek Trail, like the Jakes Creek Trail, is easily accessible and receives a large amount of visitation, which over time results in erosion and damage. The Trails Forever crew installed water bars and rehabilitated the trail surface to prevent future erosion and damage.
Forney Ridge Trail - The Forney Ridge trail, near Clingmans Dome, is another easily accessible and heavily used trail that leads to Andrews Bald. Heavy use and heavy rainfall at high elevations has severely eroded portions of the trail. On the Bald itself there were deep gullies and patches of bare earth. Anyone who has ever hiked this trail can surely attest to how rugged and difficult this trail is to hike.
The Trails Forever crew has rehabilitated the existing stone steps and turnpikes just below the Clingmans Dome parking lot. They have also added water bars to improve drainage on the way to Andrews Bald. At the Bald, large portions of the trail have been re-routed in order to allow vegetation to return to the damaged areas. New signs have also been posted to encourage visitors to use the new trail.
Ramsey Cascades Trail – Steady use of this popular trail has resulted in heavy erosion to the trail surface. The trail is steep in places and erosion has made hiking difficult, especially in wet conditions. Trails Forever has rehabilitated the trail surface, removing roots and rocks and improving drainage to prevent future erosion.
Mingus Creek Trail - Most recently, the Trails Forever Alternative Spring Break Group from the University of Virginia worked on a section of the Mingus Creek trail on the North Carolina side of the Park. Using tools and materials paid for by the Trails Forever program, the students constructed an elevated section of trail and improved the drainage in an area where multiple small streams come together creating a marshy, wet environment. This marshy area prompted hikers to walk along the margins of the trail, gradually widening the damage from hiking and causing erosion that could potentially harm the natural resources of the area. The new elevated trail creates a hard, dry surface that will keep hikers on the trail and prevent erosion and damage to the area.
Over the next 2 years, Friends of the Smokies needs your support to match the $2 million grant from the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville in order to establish the $4 million Trails Forever endowment. As a result of this challenge grant, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville!
For more information on ways that you can help, please click here.
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