Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have lifted the fire ban effective today, December 23rd. Campfires and open grills have been banned in the backcountry since November 1 and throughout the park and frontcountry areas since November 15. Beginning Friday, visitors can have campfires in designated backcountry campsite firerings and resume use of grills and campfires at established frontcountry campsites and picnic areas. Recent rains, along with the containment of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire, led park officials to consider lifting the fire ban. The fire was considered 100% contained as of Sunday, December 18th.
“With the fire containment and recent wet, moist conditions, we are relieved that our winter campers can once again have warming fires which can be critical when camping in single digits,” said Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We remind hikers and campers to dress in layers and to be prepared for changing weather at all elevations.”
The park has received between 7 to 10 inches of rain since November 28 which has helped relieve dry conditions across the park. Overall, rainfall is down approximately 16 inches (31%) for the year at Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg, making it one of the driest years in park history. Park Headquarters received record low precipitation in 2007 with only 34 inches reported for the entire year which was well below the normal average of 55 inches per year for this location. To date, the park has received approximately 39 inches of rain this year at Park Headquarters.
Park trail crews continue to clear and assess trails throughout the burned area. The following areas reopened on Wednesday: Cherokee Orchard Road, Twin Creeks Trail, Noah Bud Ogle Nature Trail, Trillium Gap Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, Baskins Creek Trail, Grapeyard Ridge Trail, and Old Sugarlands Trail. Hikers are reminded to stay on established trails and to be cautious of overhead limbs and trail hazards throughout the area including loose rocks, falling trees, flooding, and debris flows. Hikers should be alert and avoid hiking through the areas during high winds.
The following trails remain closed: Chimney Tops Trail, Road Prong Trail, Sugarlands Mountain Trail, Bull Head Trail, Rough Creek Trail, Cove Mountain Trail, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, and Sugarlands Riding Stables concession trails. For updated information on backcountry closures, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm or call the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.
Maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data related to the Chimney Tops 2 and Cobbly Nob Fires are published by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and are available for download by following the links at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/maps.htm.