Friday, May 19, 2017

Smokies Reminds Visitors to be Bear Aware

As the busy summer season approaches, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials want to remind visitors about precautions they can take while enjoying the park to keep themselves and bears safe. Bears are particularly active this time of year in search for spring foods. Visitors should be prepared in how to safely observe bears without disturbing them during this critical season.

“Bears are very active right now, and we’re receiving reports across the park of bear sightings along trails and roadways,” said Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “We ask for the public’s help by respecting bears’ space.”

Bears should be allowed to forage undisturbed on natural foods and should never be fed. Park officials remind visitors to properly store food and secure garbage. Coolers should always be properly stored in the trunk of a vehicle when not in use. All food waste should be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching people.

Hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country including hiking in groups of 2 or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly storing food regulations, and remaining at safe viewing distance from bears at all times. Feeding, touching, disturbing, or willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, is illegal in the park.

If approached by a bear, park officials recommend slowly backing away to put distance between yourself and the animal, creating space for it to pass. If the bear continues to approach, you should not run. Hikers should make themselves look large, stand their ground as a group, and throw rocks or sticks at the bear. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident in the park, please call 865-436-1230.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

June Hike of the Month: Spence Field / Rocky Top

It's almost June, which means that mountain laurel will soon be blooming at the top of Spence Field.

The hike to Spence Field out of Cades Cove is probably one of the most underrated hikes in the Smokies, in my opinion. I would go so far as to say that the combination of Spence Field and Rocky Top ranks as number 3 on my list of the Top 10 Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In addition to the outstanding views from Rocky Top anytime of the year, the mountain laurel at Spence Field makes this an exceptional hike. The best time to tackle the 5.1-mile trek to Spence is usually right around mid-June when the grassy bald area is exploding with mountain laurel at or near peak bloom.

Although Spence Field provides for some outstanding views of the North Carolina side of the Smokies, you should definitely hike another 1.2 miles to Rocky Top for an even better vantage point - possibly the best in the park.

Here's a preview of some of the sights you'll see at the top:


For more information on Spence Field, please click here, and for more information on the hike to Rocky Top, please click here.

If planning to make the pilgrimage to Spence Field or Rocky Top this season, you ought to make Townsend your headquarters.  If you've never had the pleasure of staying in the Townsend area, known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a rental cabin during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Don’t Rush to Rescue Young Wildlife

Although this was published specifically for the state of Colorado, this information and advice applies to anywhere:

Spring has come to Colorado bringing blooms and rain showers, and of course the young wildlife of the year. As birds and mammals give birth, Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind citizens that newborn wildlife may be found in backyards , along trails, or in open spaces. The best course of action is to leave them alone.

Each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife receives scores of calls from concerned humans about wildlife that has been "abandoned" by adult animals. Many are tempted to "help" a young animal by picking it up or trying to feed it, however it is critical that people understand there is no substitute for their natural parents.

Wildlife experts agree that it is quite normal for adult animals to leave their young in a safe place while they go forage for food. And often baby birds are learning to fly, near their nests when they are deemed "abandoned." While well-meaning people sometimes gather up this baby wildlife and bring them to wildlife rehabilitation facilities, it is often the wrong thing to do.

"Baby mammals are scentless in order to prevent predators from finding them," said Janet George, senior terrestrial biologist for CPW. "When humans touch these animals, they are imparting them with a scent their adults will not recognize or even fear. This can result in true abandonment of healthy offspring."

Because birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell, baby birds are a different story. They can be picked up and moved out of harm's way or placed back in the nest if they are songbirds. However, do not try this with raptors! Great-horned owls and other raptors are territorial and have been known to fly at humans seen as a threat to their young.

If you find young wildlife, enjoy a quick glimpse, leave the animal where it is, and keep pets out of the area. Quietly observe the animal from a distance using binoculars and don't hover so close that the wild parents are afraid to return to the area.

"If twenty four hours go by and the parent does not return, or the young animal appears sick and weak, it is possible the newborn was abandoned or the parent is dead (hit by a car, for example)," said Jenny Campbell, customer service expert with CPW. "Call our office and we will work with our volunteer transport teams to get animals to a certified wildlife rehabilitation center to get aid for the wildlife if possible. Don't move the animal yourself!"

Donna Ralph of the non-profit Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center agrees. "Many of the animals we get should have never been picked up in the first place," said Ralph. "They would have had a better chance for survival if left in the care of the parent animal."

"The sooner the animal can be released back to where it came from the better," she explained. "Make sure you provide your contact information so we can let it go in the same place you found it."

Ralph said her center has already taken in many small mammals this year including several fox kits. "Baby foxes don't look like most people would expect them to look like. They are very small, very dark (almost black) and appear to be very kitten like. People who find them think they might be baby raccoons, skunks, or something else."

Ralph's advice: Don't try to feed them. Don't put anything into their mouths. Contact the CPW, a veterinarian, or licensed wildlife rehabilitator to give these babies the care they need.

"Whatever you do, don't try to keep the animal as a pet," she said. "It is illegal to keep wild animals in captivity unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator."

In addition to potential harm for wildlife, humans need to recognize the potential harm to them, as well. There can be risks associated with the handling of wildlife animals, including disease transmission of rabies, distemper or other illnesses. Wildlife can also carry fleas that might subsequently spread disease to humans or pets.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Festival of the Fireflies

Next month is the annual "Festival of the Fireflies" in the Great Smoky Mountains. to get you "fired" up, I thought I would share a video that was published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association last year. According to the GSMA:
In late spring/early summer fireflies begin their mating in the fields of Cades Cove over a two week period. A few days after mating, a female lays her fertilized eggs on or just below the surface of the ground. The eggs hatch three to four weeks later, and the larvae feed until the end of the summer.

Fireflies are disappearing around the planet, and a lot of it is blamed on the use of pesticides. In Cades Cove, pesticides are not used, so the fireflies thrive.




Jeff
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Community Connections Make Dollars and Sense

Just as the Blue Ridge Parkway prepares to welcome visitors for the 2017 season, a new National Park Service report shows that visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2016 spent $979,334,200 in communities near the park; and that spending supported 15,649 jobs in the region having a cumulative impact to local economies of $1,341,343,100.

As many of the Parkway’s campgrounds and visitor centers have opened for the 2017 season this past weekend, the report reinforces the connection between the Parkway and its neighboring communities. While park staff are eager to welcome visitors of all ages to enjoy the rich cultural and outdoor recreation experiences found across the 469-mile route, local communities are also preparing attractions and services for these same visitors.

From Waynesboro, Virginia to Waynesville, North Carolina, the Parkway passes through 29 counties and many villages, towns, and cities across the two states. “The Parkway is a strong economic engine for our community, and many others,” says Lynn Collins, Executive Director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. “The 2016 National Park Visitor Spending Effects report reinforces the value of having the Parkway in our county and is an important reminder that tourism to national parks makes a difference for all of us. Haywood County is proud to provide Parkway visitors with amenities that complete their Parkway visit; and based on this report, we look forward to a robust 2017 season.”

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

Report authors this year produced an online, interactive tool where users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rainbow Falls Trail Rehabilitation Project Begins May 8th

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a 2-year trail rehabilitation project will begin next week on the popular Rainbow Falls Trail. The trail will be closed May 8, 2017 through November 16, 2017 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. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays.

The parking lot at the Rainbow Falls trailhead area will be closed May 8 through June 15, Monday through Thursday, to facilitate heavy re-construction of the trailhead area where several trails intersect. After June 15, the parking lot will be open so users can access the Old Sugarlands Trail and the Trillium Gap Trail connector trail.

“This work will be a long-term solution to the various safety and route finding issues found along this section of the Rainbow Falls Trail and will allow visitors to enjoy the trail and the scenic areas surrounding it safely for years to come,” said Tobias Miller, Trails and Roads Facility Manager. “This project would not be possible without the generous support from our park partner, Friends of the Smokies, who provide funding for the project through the trails forever endowment program.”

The Trails Forever crew will focus rehabilitation efforts on several targeted locations along the 6-mile trail to improve visitor safety and stabilize eroding trail sections. Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt. Le Conte. The planned work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by reducing trail braiding and improving drainage to prevent further erosion.

Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other four open trails to the summit. The Mt. LeConte Lodge and Mt. Le Conte backcountry shelter will remain open and can be accessed from any of these other routes during the Rainbow Falls Trail closure. The recently restored Alum Cave Trail along with Boulevard, Brushy Mountain and Trillium Gap trails are all open and lead to Mt. Le Conte.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,000,000 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 Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge 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.



Jeff
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Time to Make Plans for Gregory Bald!

Although Gregory Bald is an excellent destination anytime of the year, mid to late June is the absolute best time to make the trek to the summit. In addition to its excellent views into Cades Cove, Gregory Bald provides for one of the best flame azalea shows in the world during this time frame.

In fact, azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet. According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them.

This isn't an easy hike, however, the Gregory Ridge Trail climbs over 3000 feet, and the roundtrip hike is 11.3 miles. But it's well worth it! As mentioned on this blog in the past, I would definitely rank this as the number one hike on my list of the Top 10 Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Here's a sampling of some of the sights you'll see at the top:


For more information on this outstanding hike, please click here.

If planning to make the pilgrimage to Gregory Bald this season, you may want to consider making Townsend your base of operations. If you've never had the pleasure of staying in the Townsend area, also known as the “Quiet Side of the Smokies”, you may want to note that it's much easier getting in and out of the park, and is fairly close to Cades Cove. If you need a rental cabin during your visit, be sure to visit our Townsend Accommodations page.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Smokies Announces Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Tuesday, May 30 through Tuesday, June 6. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at www.recreation.gov.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 28 at 12:00 noon until Monday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 10. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (225 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If selected, the lottery winner will be charged a $2.75 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 10 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/bus parking area at 7:00 p.m. The cost will be $1.00 round trip per person, as in previous years, and collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash will be the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $2.75 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Missing Link Construction on Foothills Parkway to Begin

Today the National Park Service hosted a ceremony commemorating the final construction phase of the Foothills Parkway from Walland to Wear’s Valley that has been almost three decades in the making.

“I am looking forward to seeing the hard work of everyone involved in this project come to life as finishing touches are put in to place that will help showcase the beauty of our region to locals and visitors alike,” Congressman John Duncan said.

In April 2016, Congressman Duncan personally wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to express support for the NPS’ application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant that would help meet the budget requirements for this phase.

Since the $10 million dollar TIGER Grant was awarded to the Foothills Parkway last July, the $35 million dollar project can now be completed with $10 million in funds from the NPS and $15 million from the State of Tennessee. Congressman Duncan helped obtain $27 million for the parkway through various transportation and appropriations bills. To actually utilize the funds, a state government or non-federal entity must contribute 20 percent of the cost.

Since the State of Tennessee purchased the right-of way for the entire 72 mile stretch, Congressman Duncan convinced the Federal Highway Administration to consider the value of the land as the 20 percent non-federal match that would allow construction to continue with the procured federal funds.

The 72 mile long parkway project was authorized by Congress in 1944, but conceptualized in the late 1920’s. To date, 22.5 miles have been completed which include a 5.6 mile section in Cosby and 17 mile section from Walland to Chilhowee Lake.



Jeff
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hikers Can Now Register for Appalachian Trail Campsites to Reduce Crowding

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) announced today the launch of A.T.CAMP, a website that allows groups of six to ten hikers to find and register for campsites along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). This system is designed to help groups plan their hikes while avoiding overcrowding and the related natural and social impacts at camping areas.

"The scenic beauty and wildland location of the Appalachian Trail makes it a popular destination for groups seeking recreation and a memorable time with their friends,” said Jason Zink, visitor use manager for the ATC. “But a single group can overcrowd the capacity of many trailside campsites, which not only negates much of the wilderness experience so many hikers seek, but also causes damage to the fragile natural resources of the Appalachian Mountains.”

The A.T.CAMP website, www.ATcamp.org, allows hikers to register a group of up to ten individuals, choose starting and ending locations for their intended hike, and select campsites along their chosen route. Groups will be able to see how many other campers have also registered for these locations and will receive an immediate notification if their group exceeds the quota for campsites they have selected.

“This system is not meant to reserve a spot for a group and does not impose restrictions for campers seeking to stay at the same location,” said Zink. “It’s a voluntary system that provides a tool for groups to plan their hikes, to minimize or eliminate damage and to maximize their enjoyment of the unique Appalachian Trail experience.”

While the current iteration of A.T.CAMP focuses solely on large camping groups, future versions will allow smaller groups and individual campers to register their A.T. camping itineraries. Presently, A.T. long-distance hikers can register their thru-hikes using the Voluntary Thru-Hiker Registration at www.appalachiantrail.org/thruhikeregistration.

For more information or to register an overnight group hike, please visit www.ATcamp.org.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

First Day of Summer in Grand Teton National Park

I realize that we're still a few weeks away from the first day of summer. I'm just reusing the title that Finley Holiday Films used for their outstanding short film highlighting Grand Teton National Park. This excellent short video shows what this beautiful park looks like in June as the snow melts, and the wildflowers and wildlife begin to emerge from a long winter:



With more than 240 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Grand Teton National Park. Fortunately the park offers a wide variety of outstanding day hikes. If you do plan to visit Grand Teton this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cades Cove Loop Lope Returns

At the Knoxville Marathon last Sunday, the Knoxville Track Club announced that Friends of the Smokies is set to host the Cades Cove Loop Lope on Sunday, November 5, 2017 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Billed as a “one-time-only” event in 2010, the park service approved the highly acclaimed foot race for a return to Cades Cove this fall.

“We are very excited to bring this race back to such a beautiful part of our national park,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “This is a unique way to experience the splendor of the Cove and raise money to protect it for future generations at the same time.” This year, Friends of the Smokies will provide $1.4 million for critical park projects including more than $90,000 in historic preservation and wildlife management programs in Cades Cove.

For GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash, the race marks an opportunity to connect with the next generation of public lands stewards who are active in our national parks. “We are pleased to work with the Friends to offer this opportunity that supports the park and encourages people to use the park for fitness,” said Superintendent Cash. “The park provides an incredible setting for people to improve mind, body, and spirit.”

November’s Cades Cove Loop Lope will offer pre-registered runners a choice of the full 11 mile loop or a 3.5 mile loop course. Registration will open on August 1st and will be hosted by Knoxville Track Club, who will also be timing the race.

More details about this November’s race including cost and online registration will be posted to CadesCoveLoopLope.com in the coming weeks.

If you're considering a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains to do the race, or for any reason at any time this year, please help support HikingintheSmokys.com by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations pages.
 






Jeff
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Prepares for 2017 Visitor Season

As spring begins, staff along the Blue Ridge Parkway are preparing campgrounds for visitors, planning engaging family programs, and readying other facilities for the millions of visitors that enjoy the Parkway each year. This historic, 469-mile route, and National Park Service site, is one of the largest designed landscapes in the country, providing visitors with a wide variety of opportunities to make meaningful connections to the nature, history, and culture of the southern Appalachian mountain region.

Visitors to Parkway campgrounds need to be aware of two changes for the upcoming season. Beginning May 1, 2017, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or a state department of agriculture may be brought onto the Parkway. Campers may also collect dead and down wood found in the immediate vicinity of campgrounds and picnic areas.

Additionally, the overnight camping fee on the Parkway will be $20.00. “We are committed to keeping the Parkway camping opportunities affordable and providing visitors with the best possible experience,” said Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods. “The funds generated from camping fees are used to maintain and improve existing campground infrastructure such as picnic tables, tent pads, and visitor facilities.”

The first step in bringing business back to the historic Bluffs operations at Doughton Park, near Milepost 241, will also occur with the reopening of the camp store (previously a gas station) at that site later in May.

Parkway visitors are always reminded to take time to carefully plan their visit. Considering its unique design, the Parkway drive is different than most and this can mean taking extra care to ensure a safe visit. Information is available to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/blri, the real time road map site at www.nps.gov/maps/blri/road-closures/, in any Parkway visitor center, and by following Parkway social media sites with the handle @BlueRidgeNPS.

Schedule of opening dates and times can be found here https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/hours.htm



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Elkmont Area Trail Closures During Demolition Project

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the following schedule update for the Elkmont Historic District demolition project:

Beginning Monday, April 10th, the Little River Trail will be closed from the trailhead to the junction with Cucumber Gap Trail to all use Monday through Friday until May 5, 2017. All campsites and shelters in the backcountry will remain open and can be accessed using routes that do not include the closed section of the Little River Trail.

The Jakes Creek Trail will be closed from the trailhead to the junction with the Cucumber Gap Trail to all use Monday through Friday from May 8, 2017 through May 26, 2017. All campsites/shelters in the backcountry will remain open and can be accessed using routes that do not include the closed section of the Jakes Creek Trail.

Please note that both trails will be fully open on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the work project.

Of course there are many other great hiking options in the Great Smoky Mountains. Here's my list of the Top 10 Hikes in the park if you need some suggestions for your upcoming trip.



Jeff
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Wilderness Wildlife Week 2017

The dates have been set for one of the premier annual events in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 27th annual Wilderness Wildlife Week, a five-day event that focuses on the Great Smoky Mountains and the outdoors in general, will take place May 9 through May 13, 2017. Many of this year's programs, all of which are free, will be held at the LeConte Center, the City of Pigeon Forge’s new state-of-the-art events center.

Throughout the event’s history people have traveled from as far away as Australia, Canada, China, England and New Zealand to take part in the eight-day extravaganza of honoring and celebrating the great outdoors

On tap this year are several hundred workshops, lectures, panel discussions, mini-concerts, hikes and excursions into America’s most visited national park.

While the vast majority of Wilderness Wildlife Week programs are indoors, there are dozens of hikes and excursions on this year's calendar. Round trip transportation to the trailheads will be provided for each hike.

Many of the programs are brand new for 2017, and the lineup is different each day. Multiple hiking presentations will be included on this year's agenda.

Wilderness Wildlife Week has been named 10 times as a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event.

Details on Wilderness Wildlife Week, including the program schedule and hike information can be found by clicking here.

If you're considering a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains during Wilderness Wildlife Week, or anytime this spring, please help support HikingintheSmokys.com by supporting the sponsors on our Accommodations page.






Jeff
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Smokies Announces Spring Opening Schedule

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the 2017 spring opening schedule for park facilities. Here are a few key dates to remember:

Roads – Secondary Roads are scheduled to open as follows: Forge Creek Road opened on March 10; Clingmans Dome Road will open on April 1; Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open April 7; Rich Mountain Road and Little Greenbrier Road will open on April 14; and Balsam Mountain Road and Heintooga Ridge Road will open on May 26. Due to road damage and hazard trees, Parson Branch Road will remain closed in 2017. Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for bicycle use only on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 10 through September 27.

LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 24. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865-429-5704, fax 865-774-0045, or email at reservations@lecontelodge.com. One night at the lodge costs $145 per adult and $85 for children 4-12 (tax not included). Children 3 and under are free. The price includes two meals–dinner and breakfast. Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge.

Campgrounds open on a staggered schedule that started on March 10. See the following schedule for exact dates. Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site per night. The park’s developed campgrounds of Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system through Recreaction.gov for at least a portion of their seasons. Recreation.gov provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, across the country. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance. Visitors can make reservations at the five campgrounds, all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters by booking sites online at www.Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.

Advance reservations are required at Cataloochee Campground throughout the entire season. Reservations are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15 through October 31. During the rest of the open season, these three campgrounds are first-come, first-serve. At these three campgrounds, campers also have an opportunity to reserve a generator-free campsite. Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-serve campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites.

To see the full opening schedule, please click here.

If you plan to visit the Smokies this fall or summer, please take a few moments to check out our Accomodations Listings for a wide variety of lodging options in Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge and the North Carolina side of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Park Limits Access in Whiteoak Sink Area to Protect Declining Bat Populations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials will reopen the Whiteoak Sink area with limited access effective April 1 through May 15 to limit human disturbance in critical bat habitat and help hikers avoid interactions with bats. Park biologists will continue monitoring bat populations near the site as they emerge from winter hibernacula to collect population, ecological, and behavioral data that will provide resource managers information to develop a long-term protection plan.

The Whiteoak Sink area is primarily accessed from the Schoolhouse Gap Trail between Townsend and Cades Cove. Hikers may descend into the Whiteoak Sink area, but access to the waterfall and additional areas are closed. The closed areas are clearly marked by orange fencing or signs. Hikers may not hike beyond the restricted areas.

“The Whiteoak Sink area provides critical wintering habitats for bats,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We ask that everyone respect these closures in order to minimize disturbance to declining bat populations as they emerge from hibernation.”

Biologists continue to see dramatic declines in cave-dwelling bat populations in the park due to white-nose syndrome (WNS). Bat researchers from Indiana State University have been monitoring summer bat populations since 2009 and documented declines ranging from 87% for tri-colored bats to 100% for little brown bats using mist-net surveys. Historically, these species were two of the most common in the park. Since 2013, researchers surveyed primary bat caves in the park and documented a 92% decline for the endangered Indiana bat. Surveys of secondary bat caves documented an 82.7% to 94.6% overall population decline for all cave-dwelling bats.

Infected bats are marked by a white fungal growth on their noses, wings, and tail membrane. The skin irritation damages skin tissue causing the bats to wake from hibernation during winter months. Once aroused, the bats burn energy at a much faster rate depleting stored fat. With no food source available during the winter, the bats soon die. Infected bats exhibit unusual behavior including flying erratically during the day, even during winter months, and diving down toward people. They may be seen flopping around on the ground around cave openings.

The park is home to 13 species of bats including the recently discovered Gray bat, the federally endangered Indiana bat, and the federally threatened northern long-eared bat which was added to the list in February due to declines caused by WNS . Bats play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance as the primary predators of night-flying insects. Biologists estimate that an individual bat can eat between 3,000 to 6,000 insects each night including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is cooperatively working with other parks and federal, local and state agencies across the country to protect bats and manage their habitats. In an effort to prevent the unintentional spread of WNS by people, the park closed all of its 16 caves and two mine complexes to public entry in 2009. Ongoing research in the Smokies includes monitoring bat populations in the winter during hibernation and tracking bats in the summer to determine habitat use. A plan released by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service aimed at stabilizing the dramatic decline of the Indiana bat identified hibernacula found in the Smokies as one of only 13 sites across the country identified as critical habitat for this endangered bat. Wildlife biologists have determined that giving the bats the chance to survive includes establishing protective zones surrounding critical habitat caves.

Humans are not susceptible to WNS because the fungus requires a cold body temperature to survive, but skin-to-skin contact with bats should be avoided due to other transmittable diseases such as rabies. Bats are the only mammal species in the park that have tested positive for rabies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the transmission of rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats. For human safety, it is important not to touch or handle a bat. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that individuals should seek immediate medical attention if they have had skin-to-skin exposure to a bat.

For more information about bats, please the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/caves.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Temporary Closures in Cherokee National Forest Due to Black Bear Activity

U.S. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest announced that national forest lands within the corridor between the area known as Oliver Hollow north to Wilbur Dam are temporarily closed to public entry except for people hiking through on the Appalachian Trail. The closure is being implemented because of black bear activity in the area.

National forest lands within the corridor are temporarily closed to public entry by land and water access, except for through hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The Watauga Lake shelter on the Appalachian Trail is closed. Oliver Hollow is located on Watauga Lake in Carter County on Oliver Hollow Road off Highway 321 near Hampton, TN.

National Forest System Lands within the closure area are from Oliver Hollow Road following the Appalachian Trail north. The eastern closure boundary is to the shores of Watauga Lake to the shared boundary with TVA land to Wilbur Lake and continuing along the Wilbur Lake edge to Wilbur Dam. The western closure boundary includes the corridor from the Appalachian Trail to the ridge of Iron Mountain from Oliver Hollow Road to Wilbur Dam.

Oliver Hollow is a popular dispersed camping and day use area on the western end of Watauga Lake in the Cherokee National Forest. Black bears frequent the corridor and Oliver Hollow. Bears are opportunists and become habituated to campsites and picnic areas where food has been improperly discarded or stored and is easily available. Though naturally shy of people, bears learn to associate people with food. They learn to frequent the same areas where they may encounter humans. This is when concerns arise.

Forest Service officials say that in all outdoor recreation settings, you should always store your food and trash so it does not attract bears and other animals. Food should be properly stored in a vehicle, in appropriate bear resistant containers or hung from a bear pole or tree when in bear country. Trash should be placed in bear-resistant trash cans where available or packed out when you leave. Do not discard any food scraps in picnic areas, shooting ranges or any other recreation site. Doing so may attract bears and lead to temporary closure of the site if safety becomes a concern due to bear activity.

National forest visitor cooperation with this and similar closures may help break the cycle of bears returning to the same sites in search of human food, protecting you and the bears.

Please click here for a map of the closed area.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Linville Gorge Fire Grows to 1365 Acres - Several Trails Closed

Firefighters conducted burnout operations Monday afternoon to reduce fuels and buffer fire lines on the White Creek Fire. The fire, which was reported Thursday, is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is now 1,365 acres and 20% contained.

Firefighters completed fireline preparation yesterday on the north end of the fire ahead of burn out operations today. Firelines were improved on the southend in anticipation of favorable weather conditions forecasted for burnout operations on Tuesday.

Burnouts Monday afternoon took place on the north end of the containment area, near Chimney Gap. Removal of fuel in this area allowed for increased containment. A weather system is predicted to move into the area Tuesday afternoon, with potential for increased winds.

Smoke may impact areas around Lake James and Nebo this evening. Winds shifting overnight could push smoke towards Morganton. Travelers along Highways 181 and 126 should use caution, as smoke may settle in low-lying areas overnight and into the morning.

160 firefighters are on scene today. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke and McDowell County Emergency Management, and North Carolina Emergency Management.

An area closure is in effect for all U.S. Forest Service lands east of State Road 1238 (Old NC 105 / Kistler Memorial Highway), south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), south of Table Rock Picnic Area, west of Back Irish Creek Forest Service Road #118 (Blue Gravel Road) and Roses Creek Forest Service Road #99, north of Highway 126. In addition, the following trails are closed: Shortoff Trail (Tr #235), Rock Jock Trail (Tr #247), Pinch-In Trail (Tr #228), Linville Gorge Trail (Tr #231) south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), Mountains to Sea Trail (Tr #440) from State Road 1238 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area, and any social trails existing within the closure area. Public entry is prohibited within this area.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Remember: Flying a drone near a wildfire is breaking the law. Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance. So, be smart and just don't fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, March 17, 2017

White Creek Fire Closes Trails in Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

The White Creek Fire was reported at 4:00 pm Thursday and is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge, on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is estimated at 75 acres and 0% contained.

Last night, firefighters worked to re-establish firelines on the south end of the fire with the goal of protecting private property. The Linville Gorge has an extensive fire history, allowing firefighters to fall back to existing lines established in the Table Rock (2013), Shortoff (2007), and Brushy Ridge (2000) fires. Today, firefighters will be conducting burn out operations to secure the southern edge of the fire.

100 firefighters are on scene today. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke County Emergency Management, and North Carolina Emergency Management.

The U.S. Forest Service has issued an emergency closure for the Shortoff Trail (Trail #235) and the Mountains to Sea Trail (Trail #440) from Old Highway 105 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area. The public is asked to avoid the area. Fire managers are looking at a larger area closure that would include the southern portion of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Information on the larger closure is expected to be released later today.

Areas around Lake James and Morganton could experience smoke today and tonight, especially along Highway 181 between Oak Hill and Linville Falls. Smoke may also impact areas to the north and east as winds shift this evening. Travelers should use caution when driving in smoke - use headlights and increase following distances.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Remember: Flying a drone near a wildfire is breaking the law. Doing so can result in a significant fine and/or a mandatory court appearance. So, be smart and just don't fly your drone anywhere near a wildfire.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Record Visitation to America’s National Parks in 2016

The U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently hailed 331 million recreation visits to America’s national parks in 2016 – a third consecutive all-time attendance record for the National Park Service. Zinke made the announcement during a stop at Glacier National Park where he met with Park Superintendent Jeff Mow to discuss the park’s maintenance backlog and received a traditional spiritual blessing from members of the Blackfeet Nation. In 2016, Glacier broke attendance records attracting nearly three million visitors.

“Our National Parks are our national treasures, and it’s important to recognize that they are more than just beautiful landscapes,” said Zinke. “Growing up near Glacier National Park, I understand the value these places bring to local economies and in preserving our heritage. As we enter into a second century of service and visitation numbers continue to increase, we will focus on maintenance backlogs and ensuring these special places are preserved for future generations.”

Half of all national park visitation was recorded in 26 parks, but visitation grew more than 10 percent in parks that see more modest annual visitation. Mike Reynolds, Acting Director of the National Park Service pointed out, “That shows the breadth of support for parks and, I think, that the Find Your Park campaign launched with the National Park Foundation reached new audiences.” The National Park Services’ centennial and Find Your Park initiative combined with other popular events, such as the Centennial BioBlitz and other national park anniversaries, good travel weather and programs such as “Every Kid in a Park” helped drive record visitation.

National Park System 2016 visitation highlights include:

• 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016 – up 7.7 percent or 23.7 million visits over 2015.
• 1.4 billion hours spent by visitors in parks – up 7 percent or 93 million hours over 2015.
• 15,430,454Overnight stays in parks – up 2.5% over 2015.
• 2,543,221 National Park campground RV overnights – up 12.5 percent over 2015.
• 2,154,698 Backcountry overnights – up 6.7 percent over 2015.
• 3,858,162 National park campground tent overnights – up 4.8 percent over 2015.
• 10 million recreation visits at four parks – Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
• More than 5 million recreation visits at 12 parks (3% of reporting parks)
• 80 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits (21% of reporting parks)
• 382 of the 417 parks in the National Park system count visitors and 77 of those parks set a new record for annual recreation visits. This is about 20% of reporting parks.
• 4 parks were added to the statistics system and reported visitation for the first time. They added about 300,000 visits to the total: Belmont Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C., Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet Township, Mich., Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson, N.J.

While at Glacier, Zinke was joined by members of the Blackfeet Nation including Chairman Harry Barnes, Secretary Tyson Running Wolf, Timothy Davis, Carl Kipp, Nelse St. Goddard, and Robert DesRosier, who performed a traditional spiritual blessing.

“I’ve had the honor of working with the Blackfeet Nation for a number of years as a State Senator, Congressman, and now as Secretary of the Interior,” said Zinke. “The ceremony was very moving. I appreciate the blessing and know it will provide me with guidance and strength as I face the challenges ahead.”

Here are some additional highlights:


The Top 10 Visitation in National Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – 11,312,786
Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. – 5,969,811
Yosemite National Park, Calif. – 5,028,868
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo. – 4,517,585
Zion National Park, Utah – 4,295,127
Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. – 4,257,177
Olympic National Park, , Wash. – 3,390,221
Acadia National Park, Maine – 3,303,393
Grand Teton National Park, Wyo. – 3,270,076
Glacier National Park, Mont. – 2,946,681


Top 10 Visitation - All Units in the National Park System:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, Calif. – 15,638,777
Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, N.C. – 15,175,578
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tenn. – 11,312,786
George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean, Va. – 10,323,339
Gateway National Recreation Area, Staten Island, N.Y. – 8,651,770
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. – 7,915,934
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Boulder City, Nev. – 7,175,891
Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. – 5,969,811
Natchez Trace Parkway, Tupelo, Miss. – 5,891,315
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C. – 5,299,713

For an in depth look at 2016 visitation figures please visit the NPS Social Science website.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Top 6 Reasons to Visit the Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited park in the country. More than 10 million people visit the park each year to take-in the spectacular scenery. Although it may seem crowded during certain seasons, it’s very easy to escape the crowds by heading off on one of the more than 800 miles of trails. Here’s a quick rundown on why the Smokies are a hiker’s paradise.

Fall Colors
The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the best places in the country to see fall colors. From late September through early November autumn slowly creeps down from the highest elevations to the lowest valleys in the park. As a result of its rich diversity of trees – roughly 100 species of native trees live in the Smokies - park visitors will enjoy a myriad of colors, from spectacular reds and oranges, to brilliant golds and yellows. Although driving along the park roads is a popular way of seeing fall colors, hiking amongst the trees is by far the best way to enjoy them. At any point during the autumn cycle almost every trail will offer great viewing opportunities. We’ve published a guide that highlights some of the best trails as the season progresses.


Grassy Balds
One of the great mysteries of the Southern Appalachians, which includes the Great Smoky Mountains, is whether or not the treeless mountain tops and ridges, known as “balds,” are natural or if they were manmade. No one knows for certain how they came into existence. Even their age is unknown. The general consensus, however, seems to be that the early settlers in the region cleared many of these areas for grazing purposes so that the lower elevations could be used for growing crops during the summer months. Some of the best examples of grassy balds in the Smokies include Gregory Bald, Spence Field, Russell Field, Silers Bald, Andrews Bald, Parsons Bald and Hemphill Bald. However, Andrews Bald and Gregory Bald are the only two balds that are maintained by the park. The others have been left to eventually be reclaimed by forest.

One of the great annual events in the Southern Appalachians is the spectacular flame azalea, mountain laurel and rhododendron blooms of late spring. Some of the best examples of these beautiful displays from Mother Nature occur atop these balds. In particular, Gregory Bald, Andrews Bald, Spence Field and Rocky Top offer some of the best displays of these flowers. Moreover, these are among the best hikes in the park, all of which offer sweeping panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains.


The Mt. LeConte Lodge
Although there are a handful of other national parks that offer hike-in lodging, one of the great traditions in the Great Smoky Mountains is an overnight excursion at the Mt. LeConte Lodge. Sitting near the top of 6593-foot Mount LeConte, the lodge offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy a backcountry experience in relative luxury (compared to roughing it!) for those that don’t like to backpack. The only way to reach the lodge is by taking one of 6 trails that meander up the third highest mountain in the park. The most popular route is the Alum Cave Trail. If you take the Trillium Gap Trail don't be surprised to see a pack-train of llamas. The lodge is resupplied by llamas with fresh linens and food three times a week.


Early Settler History
The Great Smoky Mountains has done an excellent job of preserving its rich history of settlement prior to becoming a national park. All across the valleys, from Cades Cove, Elkmont, Big Creek, Smokemont, Deep Creek and everywhere in between, you can find the homes, farms and churches of the early settlers, as well as the remnants and relics leftover from the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s, and the logging boom of the early 1900s. There are many outstanding hikes that visit these historical sites, including the Rich Mountain Loop, which visits the home of John Oliver, a veteran of the War of 1812. He and his young family were among the first white settlers to settle in the Cades Cove area. His cabin dates from the 1820s and is one of the oldest structures in the Great Smoky Mountains. You could also take the Little Brier Gap Trail to visit the Walker Sisters Place, the home of the five Walker sisters. The last surviving sister was one of the last remaining homesteaders to live within the park boundaries.


Waterfalls
On average the lower elevations of the Smokies receive roughly 55 inches of rainfall each year, while the highest peaks receive more than 85 inches, which is more than anywhere else in the country except the Pacific Northwest. With all that rain the park is naturally blessed with an abundance of streams. Using modern mapping technology scientists have recently determined that the park contains roughly 2900 miles of streams. With elevations ranging between 6643 feet 840 feet, there are several waterfalls located throughout the park. Grotto Falls has the distinction of being the only waterfall that you can walk behind. Although Abrams Falls is arguably the most scenic and impressive waterfall in the Smokies, I personally like the hike along the Middle Prong Trail to Indian Flats Falls.


Wildflowers
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to more than 1600 species of flowering plants. During each month of the year some forb, tree or vine is blooming in the park. During the spring wildflowers explode during the brief window just prior to trees leafing out and shading the forest floor (from about mid-April thru mid-May). Although there are many parks that are larger, the Great Smoky Mountains has the greatest diversity of plants anywhere in North America. In fact, north of the tropics, only China has a greater diversity of plant life than the Southern Appalachians. Wet and humid climates, as well as a broad range in elevation, are two of the most important reasons for the park's renowned diversity. Hikers can enjoy wildflowers on almost any trail in the park. We’ve published a guide that highlights some of the best wildflower hikes during the spring season.


With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the hikes listed above, the park offers a variety of other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Blue Ridge Parkway Closed Near Craggy Gardens Due to Rockslide

The Blue Ridge Parkway is currently closed from Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (Milepost 367.5) to Mt. Mitchell State Park (Milepost 355.5) due to a rockslide. The slide occurred early Saturday evening when the parkway was open to traffic. No one was injured as a result of the incident.

Preliminary site assessments have revealed that due to the size of debris in the roadway and potential for additional material sloughing off, the closure of this section will be in effect for several weeks. Parkway engineers are working with the Federal Highway Administration to develop a plan for removing the debris in such a way that protects the safety of visitors and parkway resources.

During the period of closure the parkway is closed to all traffic, including cyclist and hikers, due to the potential for additional rock fall and heavy equipment in the area during debris removal. Please respect this road closure for your safety and the safety of others. In addition to the above closure due to rock slide, NPS maintenance crews will be completing hazard tree removal from Ox Creek Road to Craggy Picnic Area which will result in day time closures of the parkway from Milepost 375.6 to 367.6. Access to Mount Mitchell from the north is still available.

Please remember that conditions on the parkway are constantly changing. Check the real time roadmap before leaving on your next Parkway trip https://www.nps.gov/maps/blri/road-closures/.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

Graffiti Problem Worsening in Red River Gorge

Most visitors come to the Red River Gorge to enjoy its natural beauty and admire the towering rock features that extend across this scenic landscape. A few, however, come to deface and vandalize in moments what took Mother Nature centuries to create.

“The carving and spray painting of names and slogans on natural rock features in the gorge seems to be a growing problem,” said Tim Eling, Red River Gorge Manager with the Daniel Boone National Forest. “One problem is people carving their name or initials into the sandstone rock, but lately, we’re seeing a lot of bright neon-colored spray paint on rock surfaces as well.”

Natural stone arches, cliff surfaces, and stone masonry bridges are the usual targets. Among the most recent are Nada Tunnel and Sky Bridge, both iconic structures in the Red River Gorge.

“The cost and labor involved to remove spray paint from stone is no easy task, especially in remote areas,” added Eling. “Sandblasters, pressure washers, and gas-powered generators are some of the equipment required to remove spray paint, and it’s a long, tedious job for those who try to undo the damage.

“Spray paint tends to really soak into sandstone, so the removal of paint also requires the removal of some rock surface. As far as carvings go, only the process of erosion over time will erase those.

“The cliffs of the gorge are home to rare plants and animals, and many areas are also documented archaeological sites. The sensitivity of these locations can complicate the process to remove spray paint from the face of cliffs.”

As part of a Leave No Trace initiative, an educational video was created last fall to help raise awareness about the graffiti problem in the gorge. This video can be viewed online at https://lnt.org/blog/fighting-graffiti-red-river-gorge.

Visitors are encouraged to report vandalism to the nearest Forest Service office if they see it occur. Anyone caught conducting this illegal activity will be fined and prosecuted in federal court.

“This is not art. It’s vandalism, and it’s also a crime,” said Eling. “The natural landscape is not their canvas, and I think most of us prefer seeing the art of nature when we go to the gorge.”



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mountains 101: A Free Online Learning Experience

Parks Canada, in partnership with the University of Alberta, has recently announced the launch of Mountains 101, a free online series of courses that will provide a comprehensive overview of mountain studies. Mountains 101 was designed to inspire people around the world to learn and explore Canada’s mountain heritage, and to understand how Parks Canada protects, conserves and shares these special places.

Mountains 101­­ is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) teaching a comprehensive overview of Mountain Studies. It will cover an interdisciplinary field of study focusing on the physical, biological, and human dimensions of mountain places in Alberta, Canada, and around the world. The course will provide online students with a broad and integrated overview of the mountain world, including:

• the geological origins of mountains, how they’re built-up and worn-down over time
• the importance for biodiversity and water cycles, globally and locally
 • the cultural significance of mountains to societies around the globe, and how that relationship has evolved over time
• how mountains are used, and how they’re protected

Mountains 101­­ will also share general tips and tricks to safely enjoy time in the high alpine environment. Outdoor experts will also provide a smart and useful "Tech Tip" at the end of every lesson -- from how to pick the best footwear for hiking, to making smart decisions in avalanche terrain.

For more information on the course and to sign-up, please click here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Seeks Knowledgeable Instructors For New Outdoor Education Program

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recently announced the launch of its new Hiker Education Accreditation Program, which will certify qualified individuals to teach informational courses on hiking, backpacking, camping and sustainable outdoor practices. This program is designed to give Appalachian Trail (A.T.) hikers of all skill levels an opportunity to receive high-quality instruction about hiking safely and ethically in America’s backwoods.

“This program trains the trainer to spread key information far beyond the areas the Appalachian Trail Conservancy can physically reach, allowing competent and passionate instructors throughout the U.S. to offer ‘How to Hike the Appalachian Trail’ courses that we are proud to recommend,” said Morgan Sommerville, southern regional director for the ATC.

The Hiker Education Accreditation Program will help point hikers to expert course providers whose curriculum meets the ATC’s training requirements. This program is a partnership with individuals offering A.T. hiking courses concerning equipment selection, Leave No Trace principles and other skills that will maximize their enjoyment and protection of the A.T. hiking experience.

“These types workshops help hikers understand the types of questions they need to be asking themselves before they set foot on the Appalachian Trail,” said ChloĆ« de Camara, ridgerunner/camp coordinator for the ATC.

As the world’s most popular long-distance hiking trail, the A.T. continues to experience increased visitation. Misuse of the Trail creates significant impacts on natural resources, but this damage can be prevented with proper training, planning and preparation.

“Hiking workshops also help hikers understand the crowding that is occurring on parts of the Appalachian Trail, particularly in Georgia during March and April when many hikers begin their northbound thru-hikes,” said de Camara. “Through this program, instructors will be better-equipped to discuss the value of spreading out Appalachian Trail use and camping by choosing an alternate thru-hike itinerary.”

The ATC encourages individuals currently delivering workshops about the A.T., day hiking, backpacking and long-distance hiking to apply for the Hiker Education Accreditation Program by March 10 by clicking here.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wildfire Relief Funds Will Support Great Smokies Recovery Efforts

On Monday National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) presented a donation to the Friends of the Smokies to support ongoing local recovery efforts in the wake of wildfires that devastated Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding communities in November.

Through a generous donation by NPCA Board of Trustees Vice Chair Greg Vital, NPCA was able to contribute $20,000 to Friends of the Smokies to support wildfire recovery efforts in the park.

Vital, a Chattanooga, TN, businessman, is a long-time supporter of National Parks and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Don Barger, NPCA’s Southeast Senior Regional Director, formally presented the donation to the Friends of the Smokies at the organization’s Board of Directors dinner on Sunday.

“The Smokies are home to some of America’s most breathtaking views and incredibly diverse wildlife. The importance of the work that Friends of the Smokies does to support this beloved park cannot be overstated,” said Barger. “NPCA is honored to help support these critical restoration efforts.”

“Friends of the Smokies is very grateful to Greg Vital for his generous support for the park at this time of very special need. The important work NPCA does year round to help insure the preservation and protection of our National Park system as a whole, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in particular, is critical not only now but for future generations,” says Jim Hart, President of Friends of the Smokies.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Out For a Drive Along the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Last summer Glacier National Park published this short video, showing what it's like to drive across the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only road to cross Glacier from east to west. It carries travelers through some of the most spectacular scenery the park has to offer. This engineering marvel spans more than 50 miles across the park's interior, and takes passengers over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Along its route the road passes glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys, and windswept alpine meadows and sweeping mountain vistas atop the 6646-foot pass. Although the road is still encased in snow and ice right now, here's your chance to enjoy it vicariously from the comfort of your home or office:



In addition to cruising the Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the best ways to see Glacier National Park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park. Prospective visitors may also want to note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
HikinginGlacier.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
TetonHikingTrails.com