Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Alum Cave Trail Restoration Work Continues This Summer

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the schedule for the next phase of the Alum Cave Trail restoration project. Over the next several months Trails Forever crews will focus restoration efforts on several targeted locations along the 5-mile trail to improve visitor safety, and to stabilize eroding trail sections. The restoration work will require temporary trail closures throughout the six-month process.

Alum Cave Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, leading hikers to iconic areas including Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, Alum Cave Bluffs, Mt. Le Conte, and LeConte Lodge. Park rangers respond to numerous accidents along the trail each year, especially along the upper, narrow corridors. The planned work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by repairing historic cable and handrail systems, reinforcing hanging trail sections, reducing trail braiding, and improving drainage to prevent further erosion. There are also several narrow areas where erosion and small landslides have damaged significant sections of the trail, making it difficult to safely travel through the areas during inclement weather or to pass hikers coming from the opposite direction. By restoring these fragile trail sections, the park can best ensure long-term sustainability and protect trailside natural communities from degradation.

Alum Cave Trail and associated parking areas will be closed May 2nd through November 17th in 2016 (excluding federal holidays), on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. Due to the construction process on the narrow trail, a full closure is necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other five trails to the summit. The LeConte Lodge will remain open during this time.

Hikers and backpackers should also note that the Mount LeConte Shelter will be closed Monday thru Thursday from May 2nd thru October 13, 2016 to accommodate a youth crew that will be working on the project.

The closure of the Alum Cave Trail this summer provides hikers with the opportunity to explore other routes to Mt. LeConte. The Boulevard, Bull Head, Rainbow Falls, Trillium Gap, and Brushy Mountain trails all lead to Mt. Le Conte (please note that trailhead parking is limited for some of these trails). Day hikers may also want to consider other trails that offer stunning views, such as the Chimney Tops Trail, the Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald, or the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated $500,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including the recently restored Forney Ridge Trail and Chimney Tops Trail. 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.

For more information about the Alum Cave Trail closure, please click here to find answers to frequently asked questions and updates on the trail restoration.

For more information about the Alum Cave Trail, please click here.


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