Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced a decision to transition backcountry campsites 84 and 85, along the Hazel Creek Trail in North Carolina, from non-reservation campsites to reservation-only. This change takes effect on August 1, 2011. The decision was made as a result of repeated bear-human conflicts, which have necessitated lengthy closures of these two sites in the past couple of years.
Campsites 84 and 85 are currently available on a first-come first-served basis, which very often results in the sites being overcrowded. One consequence of overcrowding is lack of space on the food storage cables for everyone to properly store their food and other odorous items that tend to attract bears.
Park officials expect that limiting the number of people at these campsites to the actual capacity will help ensure all campers have access to the food storage cables. When food and odorous items are properly stored bears have less incentive to visit campsites, which means fewer opportunities for bear-human conflicts. Fewer bear-human conflicts will, in turn, reduce the likelihood of campsite closures and allow more visitors to enjoy use of these sites during the season.
The reservation requirement will not affect the current capacity which allows a maximum number of 6 campers per night at campsite 84 and 10 people and 6 horses per night at campsite 85.
To make a reservation, campers must call the Backcountry Reservation Office at 865/436-1231. The office is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily and reservations may be made up to one month in advance. In addition, campers must obtain an overnight backcountry camping permit, available at 16 backcountry permit stations throughout the Park.
For more information about proper food storage, backcountry regulations or trip planning, visit the Park’s website anytime at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm or call the Park’s Backcountry Information Office at 865/436-1297. The office is open 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. to noon.