Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cades Cove Loop Road reopening details

Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced details for the reopening of the Cades Cove Loop Road during two celebratory events on Saturday, April 24, and Sunday, April 25. The park has implemented temporary measures and organized personnel to direct traffic and parking to make these events run as smoothly as possible.

On Saturday, the Loop Road will reopen only to bicyclists and pedestrians from sunrise (expected at 6:50 a.m.) to noon. Motor vehicles then will be permitted to travel the road starting at noon to sunset. They will not be allowed to arrive any earlier than noon.

During the morning hours, Park personnel will be stationed at the Townsend Wye to control traffic to the Cove. They will only allow those who will be recreating in and near the Cove, i.e., walkers, and campers/picnickers, and Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont participants, and will be turning away motorists who plan to tour the Loop Road to help alleviate traffic jams. Motorists will be directed to return at noon.

Visitors who plan to explore the Cove in the morning can expect to park in a field as a large number of people is expected. To accommodate visitors who would like to rent bicycles for the day, the Cades Cove Campground Store will open for business at 7 a.m. and will have available for rent multi-speed comfort or mountain bikes, in addition to single speed cruisers.

Several safety cautions and regulations should be noted while biking the Cove. Following these standard cautionary practices will make for a pleasant riding experience. Under Tennessee law, helmets are required for persons under 16 years of age, and it is recommended that all other riders wear helmets. Cyclists, particularly those with children, should maintain safe speeds especially on steep grades and around blind curves. Speed is the number one cause of bicycle accidents. Visitors should be aware that there are potentially hazardous situations along what appears to be mostly level land and with the newly paved smooth surface, it will be important to practice safe riding skills, especially if the road surface is wet from rain. Be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Park officials also expect traffic to be heavy when the road opens to motorists at 12 p.m. so people should be patient. With the opening of Cades Cove Loop Road, the one way Parson Branch Road will also be open. However, travelers who plan to exit the Cove onto Parson Branch Road must be aware that at its intersection with Route 129 they will only be allowed to travel south into North Carolina because a rockslide on Route 129 prevents travelers from heading north into Tennessee. Signage will be in place at the beginning of Parson Branch Road warning travelers of this change.

On Sunday, access to the cove will be restricted and limited to preregistered runners for the special Cades Cove Loop Lope event sponsored by the Friends of the Smokies. The Park expects about 380 runners to participate in this run. Registration for the run is now closed as all available parking has been taken up. Park officials, in partnership with the Friends and the Knoxville Track Club, is organizing this one-time event in recognition of the accomplishment of the long overdue road rehabilitation project. Park personnel will be staged at the Townsend Wye to facilitate traffic flow and allow only those participating in the run, as well as registered campers.

Right now, the forecast for Townsend calls for thunderstorms on Saturday, and partly cloudy skies on Sunday.

Jeff Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, hiking gear store, and more.

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