It may be awhile before visitors can begin hiking in the western portion of the Great Smoky Mountains again. Early this morning officials posted this statement on the park website:
Warning: A severe storm on July 5, 2012, resulted in downed trees on park trails. Preliminary trail assessments indicate that thousands of trees have fallen along hundreds of miles of trails throughout the western half of the park. The worst damage is in the northwest section of the park which includes the Cades Cove area. Due to the widespread damage, it will likely be several weeks before full trail assessments can be completed.
Also, in a press release Saturday, the park stated:
Initial indications are that several trails received significant damage, including the Chestnut Top Trail, of which a two-mile section has essentially been lost. The magnitude of the storm damage will most likely result in the closure of all or portions of several backcountry trails in the area.
To possibly gauge the current situation, keep in mind that the Beard Cane Trail, Hatcher Mountain Trail and Backcountry Campsites 3, 11 are still closed as a result of the tornado from April 27, 2011.
Other trails currently closed in the park, or have a warning that you should make note of include:
• Chimney Tops Trail will be closed Mondays through Thursdays, until October 18, for trail rehabilitation.
• Gunter Fork Trail closed due to landslides
• Caldwell Fork Trail - the number eight footbridge along the trail is out. Hikers wishing to use the trail will need to ford the creek.
• Smokemont Loop Trail/Bradley Fork Trail - the foot bridge located at the junction of these trails is out and scheduled to be replaced by the end of July.
• Middle Prong Trail - The first bridge on this trail has undergone temporary repairs. Stock users are advised to walk stock across the bridge.
Also, as of this morning, the following roads remain closed:
• Little River Road from Metcalf Bottoms to the Townsend Wye
• Abrams Creek Campground is closed
• Parson Branch Road in Cades Cove
• Rich Mountain Road in Cades Cove
• Forge Creek Road in Cades Cove
• Abrams Creek Entrance Road
• Tremont Road above the Institute at Tremont