The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a steep, two-mile hike to a rock outcropping that provides spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains. Combine the high use with the steep grade and a large amount of rainfall and the result is serious safety, resource damage, and sustainability challenges.
Since April, the Trails Forever crew – crew leader Josh Shapiro, assistant crew leader Eric Wood, crew members Brad Davis, Brian Holda, and Margaret Milikin – has been hard at work on phase one of the rehabilitation of the Chimney Tops Trail. The photo above is just one example of the one mile of rehabilitation that has been completed on the trail during this work season. In places like this, the grade is steep, people have picked their way around exposed rock, and water that cascades down the trail. The Trails Forever crew used local rock to create an aesthetically pleasing, easily walkable, sustainable staircase with integrated step over and inside drainage. With the design of the staircase and revegetation efforts, what formally was a ten-foot impact corridor is currently a solid four-foot trail.
Trails Forever is a partnership program between the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With 848 miles of hiking trails, an average of more than 80 inches of rain a year, and significant forest vegetation, trail crews at Great Smoky Mountains National Park focus their efforts primarily on cyclic maintenance to keep the trails open (clearing windfalls, mowing/pruning and drainage). The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on the high use and high priority trails in the park.
The Trails Forever crew produces high quality, sustainable trail solutions to some of the most challenging erosion issues on the trail system. These sustainable trail improvements include redefining sections of trail that have become unsafe or unwalkable, improving drainage by modifying water bars or constructing other types of drainage structures, and building staircases or raised turnpike structures out of sustainable materials to prevent further erosion. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.
To see more photos of the work and more information about the Trails Forever program, please visit their website.
For more information on hiking the Chimney Tops Trail, please click here.
Hiking in the Smokies