Saturday, September 29, 2018

Smokies Mobilizes Additional Resources in Search for Missing Woman

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials continue to search for Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements, 53, who was last seen in the Clingmans Dome area of the park on Tuesday, September 25. Trained personnel from cooperating agencies in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia have responded to assist park staff in a large-scale search effort for the missing woman in steep, rugged terrain.

As of Saturday, around 125 trained searchers and logistical support personnel from more than 30 state and local agencies and search and rescue organizations are participating in the search operation led by the National Park Service. Helicopters and multiple canine teams have been deployed for the search effort. Specialized search and rescue drones, operated by FAA-licensed pilots are being used in some areas to help search for Clements. Searchers have worked through rain, fog, wind and low temperatures in the 40s over the last several days in this mountainous region which straddles two states and several counties. Today’s forecast calls for clearer skies and drier air, a welcome change for search personnel.

By closing the seven-mile Clingmans Dome Road on Thursday night, the park was able to transform the Clingmans Dome parking area into a field “incident command post” from which to manage the complex search. Infrastructure such as tents and self-contained mobile command busses serve as portable offices for search personnel and provide a place for searchers to escape the elements, refuel, and receive instructions before heading back out to continue the search for Clements.

Verizon Wireless established a mobile cell booster, which is now providing the critical cell and data coverage needed to effectively manage and support the search effort in this remote location. Even the closed road itself has been used as a landing zone for aircraft that are assisting in the search as weather permits. Clingmans Dome Road remains closed for the duration of this critical search operation.

At this time additional volunteer searchers are not being sought, as search operations are limited to trained searchers to enable a systematic, thorough search of the area. “This is unforgiving terrain, and we are working long hours to find Ms. Clements,” said Acting Chief Ranger Jared St. Clair. “We are extremely grateful for the rapid response by so many well-trained personnel and the generous support resources that our cooperators have dedicated to this search.”

Cooperating organizations include: Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue, Black Diamond Search and Rescue, Blount County Rescue Squad, Blount County Special Operations Response Team, Blue and Gray Search and Rescue Dogs, Buncombe County Rescue Squad, Catons Chapel-Richardson Cove Volunteer Fire Department, Cherokee Indian Police Department, Cherokee Tribal EMS, Gatlinburg Police Department, Henderson County Rescue Squad and EMS, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Knoxville-Knox County Emergency Management Agency, Maryville Police Department, North Carolina Emergency Management Agency, Northview Kodak Fire Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, Sevier County Emergency Management Agency, Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, Sevierville Police Department, Southwest Virginia Mountain Rescue Group, Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, Smoky Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol, Smoky Mountain Search and Rescue Team, Swain County Emergency Management Agency, Swain County Rescue Squad, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and Walden’s Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Susan Clements was last seen on the Forney Ridge Trail approximately ¼ mile from Andrews Bald on Tuesday, September 25 at 5 pm. She is a white female with light brown hair and blue eyes, is 5’6” tall, and weighs 125 pounds. She is wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho, and white tennis shoes with purple laces.

Anyone who saw Clements on Tuesday afternoon or since then is asked to contact the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch through one of the following methods: 1-888-653-0009, and click “submit a tip,” email e-mail the park, or via a message on Facebook at “InvestigativeServicesNPS,” or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, September 28, 2018

Clingmans Dome Road Closed Due to Search For Missing Hiker

Due to the on-going search for a missing woman, Clingmans Dome Road is CLOSED to vehicles to better facilitate search-related traffic and to ensure the safety of search crews. The road will remain closed until further notice and we can not estimate its opening at this time. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding during this search and rescue operation. Follow us on Twitter at @SmokiesRoadsNPS for road status updates.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Smokies Hosts Stargazing Event at Purchase Knob

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center beginning at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 5, 2018. Located on Purchase Knob, the learning center provides one of the clearest views of the sky in the park and in Haywood County, NC.

The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky at this high elevation site with a 260-degree unobstructed view of the sky. If skies are clear, visitors can expect to see the Milky Way Galaxy high overhead that night, along with the planets Saturn and Mars, the Andromeda Galaxy, and many striking star clusters.

“National Park areas often offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Parks across the country monitor and manage for natural night sky conditions in much the same way as we do to protect our air and water. Visitors are often amazed at the number of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The event starts with an indoor presentation, which will be held rain or shine, to discuss what can be seen in the nighttime October skies. After that, participants will head outside, weather permitting, to stargaze. The learning center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation so visitors should dress in warm layers. The program is free but limited to 80 people, so reservations are required and can be made by registering through Eventbrite, at, or by calling 828.497.1946.

Purchase Knob is located off US 276 near Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The use of GPS or an internet map service to find Purchase Knob is not recommended, but park staff can provide reliable directions when visitors make reservations.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Smokies Searching for Missing Hiker Near Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountains National park rangers are searching for a 53-year-old woman from Cleves, Ohio who was last seen in the Clingmans Dome area of the park on Tuesday, September 25. Mitzie Sue “Susan” Clements was hiking with her daughter on the Forney Ridge Trail, near Andrews Bald when the two separated. She was last seen around 5:00 pm approximately ¼ mile from Andrews Bald.

Park officials were alerted that Clements was missing on Tuesday evening and began to search the immediate area with no success. On Wednesday, officials expanded the search area, and additional personnel were called in to search. Last night experienced searchers spent the night on the Appalachian Trail, attempting to locate Clements and to interview any hikers in the area. The search continues this morning with approximately 40 trained members of the park’s Search and Rescue Team.

Susan Clements is a white female with light brown hair and blue eyes. She is 5’6” tall and weighs 125 pounds. She is wearing a green zip-up sweater, black workout pants over black leggings, a clear rain poncho, and white tennis shoes.

Anyone who saw Clements on Tuesday afternoon or since then is asked to contact the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch through one of the following methods: call or 1-888-653-0009, click “submit a tip,” email e-mail us, or via a message on Facebook at “InvestigativeServicesNPS”, or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Volunteer Opportunities Available During Smokies Service Days

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announce upcoming Fall “Smokies Service Days” volunteer projects. These unique opportunities allow community members and park visitors to get involved and become stewards of Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Individuals and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park campgrounds, historic buildings, and other natural and cultural resources within the park boundaries.

This volunteer program helps complete much-needed work across the park and is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements, including high school and college students, scout troops, civic organizations, visitors, families, and working adults with busy schedules. Each project will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon on Saturday mornings, except for the November 23 service date. In addition, each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided by park staff. Participants are required to wear closed-toe shoes and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as directed. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering need to contact Project Coordinator, Logan Boldon, at 865-436-1278 or prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include:

September 29: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont

October 6: Historic Preservation & Campground Maintenance at Cataloochee

October 27: Picnic Area & Campground Clean-Up at Deep Creek

November 3: Campground Clean-Up at Cosby

November 10: Litter Patrol at the Gatlinburg Park Boundary

November 17: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont

November 23: Vegetation Management at Wears Valley

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, September 24, 2018

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Reclaiming Iconic A.T. Vistas and Improving Wildlife Habitats Through Partnership with Global Heavy Equipment Company Kubota

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), an organization working to preserve and enhance the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for more than 92 years, recently announced a new partnership with Kubota, a leading global provider of lawn mowers, utility vehicles, construction equipment, agriculture tractors and hay equipment.

The partnership involves Kubota graciously providing the ATC with the usage of a compact track loader, a high-tech machine that can operate in remote Trail sections. The powerful 96 horsepower diesel engine easily removes invasive woody vegetation. The mower attachment for the Kubota tractor is generously provided by Beverage Tractor, Virginia’s largest full-line Kubota dealer located in Stuarts Draft.

“Corporate partners are critical to the ATC and our ability to fulfill our mission of protecting the Appalachian Trail, one of the most important landscapes in the eastern United States,” said Laura Belleville, vice president of conservation and trail management for the ATC. “We give big thanks to Kubota for providing us with equipment and training so that we can enhance 614 acres of habitat for important wildlife species while also improving some amazing scenic areas. Kubota joins our other vital corporate partners who provide us with vital safety, clothing and backpacking equipment that allows our field crew and educators to provide exceptional services to the public.”

In the absence of historic natural disturbances and large grazers that formerly roamed the Appalachian Mountains, the ATC selectively removes woody vegetation to maintain habitat for populations animals, such as monarch butterflies, golden-winged warblers, and rare bees, that require open, shrubby areas, or grasslands. This work is just a part of the ATC’s ongoing stewardship efforts to care for the A.T.’s various rare, threatened and endangered species.

“We’re particularly proud of any opportunity we have to offer our expertise and equipment to a worthy cause, and we’re thrilled to provide assistance to the ATC,” said Todd Stucke, senior vice president, marketing, product support & strategic projects at Kubota. “Their work helps ensure the A.T. remains a magical experience for hikers and a vital part of our shared American heritage. We build our products for maximum efficiency and durability, and are confident this compact track loader will serve the ATC well in its worthy efforts.”


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service Waives Campground Fees on National Forests

The Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service is immediately waiving fees and making all campgrounds available for individuals displaced by the recent flooding and evacuation.

Like several areas along the Gulf Coast, many National Forests were impacted by the recent storm. Some of the region’s campgrounds are closed due to the inclement weather.

Please call ahead or check websites to determine what is open and available. Also, individuals requesting campsites need to check in with campground hosts at each site.

For more information on campgrounds in the Southern Region, please visit the respective forest’s website:

National Forests and Grasslands in Texas – (936) 639-8501
Kisatchie National Forest – (318) 473-7160
National Forests in Mississippi – (601) 965-1600
National Forests in Alabama – (334) 832-4470
National Forests in Florida – (850) 523-8500
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests – (770) 297-3000
Ouachita National Forest – (501) 321-5202
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests – (479) 964-7200
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area – (800) 525-7077
Daniel Boone National Forest – (859) 745-3100
Cherokee National Forest – (423) 476-9700
National Forests in North Carolina – (828) 257-4200
Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests – (803) 561-4000
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests – (540) 265-5100


Smokies Hosts Volunteer Trail Opportunity for National Public Lands Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a volunteer trail maintenance workday on Saturday, September 22, 2018, in celebration of the 25th annual National Public Lands Day. Participants are invited to work on a trail rehabilitation project along the Oconaluftee River Trail in Cherokee, North Carolina from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Volunteers will assist park staff in resurfacing a large section of the Oconaluftee River Trail, a multi-use riverside path connecting the town of Cherokee to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Volunteers will perform trail maintenance by shoveling, spreading, and compacting surface material. While specific jobs throughout the day may vary in complexity, volunteers must be able to hike at least two miles and safely perform strenuous physical labor. Volunteers should be comfortable using hand tools such as shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers should wear long pants, sturdy closed-toed shoes, and appropriate layers for cool weather. The park will provide gloves, safety gear, and tools for the day. All participants should bring lunch, water, and rain gear. Interested participants should contact Trail and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or for more information and to register.

For folks that would like to help celebrate National Public Lands day, but can’t commit to a full day of trail work, anyone can stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm on September 22 to sign up as a park volunteer and get free litter pick-up supplies and safety gear. After a quick orientation, participants can take the supplies with them and pick up litter as they have time while they explore the park.

Lastly, the National Park Service is partnering with Keep Sevier Beautiful to host a “Roads and Rivers Day” on the same day. Volunteers can join from 9 am to 12 pm to pick up litter in one of nine locations throughout Sevier County. A park ranger will meet participants at the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, 1820 Sports World Blvd, in Gatlinburg. Additional locations for the community event are listed at Safety vests and trash bags will be provided at registration.

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands across America. This year’s celebration is expected to draw more than 200,000 volunteers at more than 2,600 sites. For more information about National Public Lands Day, visit


Monday, September 17, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains Reopens!

Great Smoky Mountains NP posted this announcement on their Facebook page at 8:45 this morning:
Roads and facilities are opening quickly this morning! Our maintenance crews and other folks have been out since 6 am, sweeping light debris and removing a few large trees from the roadways. All primary roads are now OPEN. Campgrounds and other facilities are starting to open up now as employees make their way into work.

Crews report dense fog in some areas of the park, so please use caution if you are headed into the park today!
For up-to-date information about roads and trail closures, visit the park’s website at, follow the park on Facebook at, or follow “SmokiesRoadsNPS” on Twitter.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains Announces Closures in Preparation of Hurricane Florence

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials continue preparations for Hurricane Florence and have announced road and facility closures beginning Saturday, September 15. Predictions from the National Weather Service indicate Florence will be a tropical depression rated-storm when she reaches the Smokies beginning as early as Saturday evening. Officials anticipate sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts Saturday afternoon and into Monday, with the most severe weather predicted for Sunday. Rainfall amounts of 4-8 inches Saturday afternoon through Monday evening are estimated, with higher rainfall amounts possible for the North Carolina side of the park. Due to the potential for hazardous conditions due to downed trees, flooding, and landslides the following closures will be put into effect out of concern for public safety.

Closing Friday, September 14, 2018

Picnic Areas

• Heintooga/Balsam Mountain

Front Country Campgrounds

• Balsam Mountain

Horse Campgrounds

• Round Bottom

Roads - North Carolina

• Balsam Mountain Road
• Heintooga Ridge Road/Round Bottom Road/ Straight Fork Road

Closing Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 12:00 pm (unless noted)

Picnic Areas

• Big Creek, Cosby, and Greenbrier

Front Country Campgrounds

• Abrams Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, and Cosby

Horse Campgrounds

• Big Creek and Cataloochee

Roads - Tennessee

• Abrams Creek Road
• Cosby Access Road
• Foothills Parkway East
• Foothills Parkway West, from Look Rock to Hwy 129 – at 8 pm
• Greenbrier Road
• Newfound Gap Road, from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Newfound Gap – at 8 pm
• Ramsey Cascade Road including Ramsey Cascade Trail
• Rich Mountain Road- at 8 pm
• Tremont Road (Upper) from Tremont Institute to Middle Prong Trailhead- at 8 pm
• Wear Cove Gap Road- at 8 pm

Roads - North Carolina

• Cataloochee Entrance Road
• Clingmans Dome Road- at 8 pm
• Newfound Gap Road, from Smokemont to Newfound Gap- at 8 pm
• NC Hwy 284 •Twentymile

Facilities/Concession Operations

• Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob
• Appalachian Clubhouse- after last reservation
• Clingmans Dome Information Center-at 8 pm
• Leconte Lodge
• Spence Cabin- after last reservation

Park officials will continue to monitor the track of the storm closely. If the storm continues on its current track, additional closures may go into effect on Sunday, September 16.

Scheduled closures will make most park trailheads inaccessible. Overnight backcountry use is not recommended beginning Saturday through Monday due to the potential threat of downed trees and flooded stream crossings causing rivers and trails to become hazardous. All backcountry reservation holders are encouraged to change their itinerary or cancel their permit and receive a refund. Refunds will be available to those who are unable to reschedule their trip for an alternative date.

Following the storm, roads, campgrounds and facilities will be reopened as quickly as possible once they are passable and safety assessments have been made.

For up-to-date information about roads and trail closures, visit the park’s website at, follow the park on Facebook at, or follow “SmokiesRoadsNPS” on Twitter.


Shenandoah National Park Announces Schedule for Reopening

Shenandoah National Park has announced a phased reopening of Skyline Drive, facilities, and the backcountry after its closure due to Hurricane Florence.

Skyline Drive, Big Meadows Lodge, and Skyland Lodge will reopen at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 14, 2018. Lewis Mountain Cabins, the backcountry, campgrounds, campstores, and waysides will reopen at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 15. Visitor Centers will reopen at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. For more information about concession services, call please call 877-847-1919. The Park will continue to provide updates via its website (, its social media feeds, and its information line (540-999-3500, option 1, option 1).

Hurricane Florence’s predicted path brings its remnants into the area of Shenandoah National Park Monday and Tuesday. Park officials are monitoring its progress. Saturated soil continues to be a concern for tree falls so visitors should use caution when travel through the Park.


Some Areas of Cherokee NF Closing Due To Hurricane Florence

The USDA Forest Service is closely tracking the forecast models of Hurricane Florence. It has been determined that it is necessary to close all developed (improved facilities) campgrounds and certain other areas in the northern portion (Unaka and Watauga ranger districts) of Cherokee National Forest by Friday September 14 at 12 noon. Sites will be evaluated for health and safety and reopened as conditions allow following the storm passage.

The closures are being implement in the interest of public health and safety. Forest Service officials at the Cherokee National Forest strongly recommend that, due to expected wind and rainfall, the public not use trails or general forest areas. Emergency response times will be multiplied if an incident or medical emergency were to occur.

Excessive rain and high wind have the potential to create high water, flash floods, falling trees, mudslides, and severe damage to facilities and roads. Much of the Cherokee National Forest is heavily forested, remote and mountainous, making the potential for hazardous conditions significant.

Anyone planning a visit anywhere in the Cherokee National Forest should seriously consider postponing their visit until the threat of Florence diminishes.


Entire Blue Ridge Parkway To Close Ahead of Hurricane Florence

On Friday September 14, 2018, the entire 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway and all associated facilities, with the exception of the Pisgah Inn and Peaks of Otter Lodge, will be closed at 8:00 p.m. in anticipation of high winds and heavy rains due to the remnants of Hurricane Florence. Saturated soils in combination with high winds in these areas increase the risk of rock slide and falling trees and debris. This closure will remain in effect until further notice.

• Access to Pisgah Inn will be via US-276 only. No access via the Parkway from the north will be available.

• Access to Peaks of Otter Lodge will be via VA-43 only. No access to Peaks of Otter Lodge via the Parkway from the north will be available.

During this closure, all scheduled ranger programs and special events and uses are cancelled. This includes concerts at Humpback Rocks, Roanoke Mountain and Mabry Mill as well as the Overmountain Victory Celebration at the Museum of NC Minerals.

During the closure these sections of Parkway are closed to ALL use, including cyclists and pedestrians. Attempts to route around gates and barriers is prohibited. The public’s cooperation with these closures is important to the safety of our visitors and emergency responders, as well as the protection of Parkway resources.

Updates and information regarding the status of park facilities, including the road itself, will be available on multiple platforms, including the Parkway’s Real Time Road Map, the Parkway’s website, and its Twitter and Facebook pages. Park visitors and neighbors are encouraged to check these sites regularly for information and before heading out to the Parkway.


Hiker From Maryville Dies in Big South Fork NRRA

At approximately 1:00 PM on Sunday, September 09, 2018, park rangers were notified of a 59-year-old male in need of medical assistance on Twin Arches Loop Trail, between Twin Arches and Jake’s Place, within the park.

Park rangers arrived and provided CPR without success. Maryville, Tennessee-area resident Monte McDonough, was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was recovered and transported to Pickett County Coroner with the assistance of personnel from Fentress County Rescue Squad, Frozen Head State Park, and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

No additional information is available at this time.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hurricane Florence Potential Impact in the Smokies

If you plan on being anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains between Friday and Tuesday, you may want to note that there's an increasingly strong chance that you will be feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence. The hurricane will likely reach the Carolina Coastline as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane by late today. The current track of the storm has it pushing inland almost directly over the Southern Appalachian Mountains around Sunday and Monday. Visitors and hikers should be prepared for strong winds, heavy rain and the possibility of flooding during this period. As of right now, the North Carolina side of the Smokies could get between 3 and 5 inches of rain through Tuesday. The Tennessee side is projected to receive 1-3 inches. However, this storm appears to be highly un-predictive, so it's best to stay tuned to the Weather Channel for the latest information.

You may also want to note that Shenandoah National Park closed this morning, while the U.S. Forest Service will close all campgrounds and recreation sites, day use or overnight, in the Nantahala and the Pisgah National Forests by noon today. They have also warned the public not to use trails or general forest areas as well. Having said that, it would seem to follow that it is a possibility that the Smokies may have to close the park as well. Keep an eye on the Smokies Facebbook page and their temporary closures page for the latest information.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence Closures for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

The U.S. Forest Service, Forest Supervisor, having closely tracked the forecast models of Hurricane Florence, has decided to close down all campgrounds and recreation sites, day use or overnight, in the Nantahala and the Pisgah National Forests by Thursday September 13th at noon.

This will include the temporary suspension of creating reservations on Cancelled reservations, for this timeframe, will be refunded by the reservation service.

The Forest Service will close all seasonal gates, to ensure no one has the opportunity to get trapped behind gates. We strongly request that, due to expected wind and rainfall, the public not use trails or general forest areas. Emergency response times will be multiplied if an incident or medical emergency were to occur.

The health, safety, and well-being of the public and visitors to our National Forests is of our number one priority. Sites will be evaluated for health and safety and reopened as conditions allow following the storm passage.


Shenandoah National Park Announces Closures Due to Hurricane Florence

Shenandoah National Park will close at noon on Thursday, September 13 in anticipation of severe weather associated with Hurricane Florence. Meteorologists are forecasting a significant wind-rain event, particularly in Shenandoah’s higher elevations. Damaging winds combined with already saturated soil will make for hazardous conditions with trees toppling and branches falling.

Shenandoah’s backcountry will be closed to overnight camping as of Wednesday, September 12. Staff have suspended issuing permits and are contacting those with permits to advise them of the closure.

Skyline Drive will be closed to incoming traffic at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.

Shenandoah’s concessioner, Delaware North, will close its properties including Big Meadows and Skyland lodges and visitors will be evacuated by noon on Thursday. For more information about the concessioner’s closures, please call 877-847-1919.

Park staff are assisting with the evacuation and readying the Park’s equipment for deployment before sheltering until conditions improve.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Smokies Issues Safety Reminders During Elk Breeding Season

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind park visitors to exercise caution as they view and photograph elk to protect both the animals and themselves. Elk have entered the fall breeding season, known as the rut. As a result, from September 1 through October 31, fields in Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed to all users. Even when elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields.

During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Bulls are much more aggressive toward people and vehicles this time of year. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge. “Bull elk, which can weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, are wild animals with unpredictable behavior,” said park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “To help ensure your safety, maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from them at all times. Park in a safe location and remain close to your vehicle so that you can get inside if an elk approaches.”

Visitors are encouraged to use binoculars, spotting scopes, or cameras with telephoto lenses to best view and photograph wildlife. Feeding, touching, or disturbing any wildlife, as well as willfully approaching bears or elk within 50 yards (150 feet)–or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife–are all illegal in the park. If approached by an elk, visitors should slowly back away to create space for the animal to pass. If viewing elk near roadways, pull completely off the road, and remain in or next to your vehicle at a safe distance from the animal.

For more information about elk in the park, and to watch a short video about elk viewing safety, visit


Monday, September 10, 2018

Hurricane Florence

If you're going to be anywhere near the Great Smoky Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains between Friday and Monday of next week, you may want to note that there's an increasingly strong chance that you will be feeling the effects of Hurricane Florence. The hurricane will likely reach the Carolina Coastline as a Category 4 hurricane by late Thursday. The current track of the storm has it pushing inland over the Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains region around Saturday or Sunday. Visitors and hikers should be prepared for strong winds and heavy rain during this period. This projected track could change for the better or the worse, so stay tuned to the Weather Channel for the latest information.

You may also want to note that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial have temporarily closed all visitor facilities effective today at 12:00 pm.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Orvis Event to Benefit Friends of the Smokies

Orvis Sevierville is pleased to announce their “Giveback Days” event taking place throughout the month of September. The outdoor retailer is partnering with Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit that assists the National Park Service to preserve and protect the Great Smoky National Park by raising funds and public awareness.

“The Friends of the Smokies are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year,” stated Tricia Maggard, Orvis Sevierville retail manager. “We are pleased our donation will be used to upgrade the park’s emergency radio system, which is a crucial piece of safety equipment every national park needs. We support the group’s ongoing commitment of enhancing Great Smoky National Park for future generations.”

In addition to a $2,000 cash donation from Orvis, the company is challenging their customers to give back, as well. During the month of September, customers donating $10 or more will receive a $10 Orvis savings card (limit one per customer).

There will be an after-hours event in the Orvis Sevierville store, 136 Apple Valley Road, on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, from 6-8 p.m. where the final donations will be awarded to the Friends of the Smokies and partner groups will be raffling Orvis products to help raise additional funds. The public is invited to attend and there will be free refreshments and drawings for Orvis savings cards.

Orvis commits 5% of pre-tax profits to protecting and sustaining the natural world, not only now, but for all who follow.

For more information, please visit


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fall Color Hiking in the Smokies

Experts are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for an above average fall color display this year. It will be dependent on less rain falling on the mountains over the next several weeks, which forecasters seem to think will happen. If you're planning to hit the trail this fall to take in the colors, you may want to check out our fall color hiking guide, which offers recommendations on where to hike as the season progresses. Please click here for more information.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Shenandoah National Park Celebrates Wilderness This Weekend

Shenandoah National Park will honor America’s wilderness heritage during its 18th annual Wilderness Weekend, September 8 – 9, 2018. Today, more than 110 million acres are protected in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness designation provides enhanced protection of areas that are used as sanctuaries for human recreation, habitat for wildlife, and sites for scientific research.

This year commemorates the 42nd anniversary of Shenandoah’s wilderness designation. Forty percent of the park, or nearly 80,000 acres, is designated wilderness and represents one of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern United States. Come and join the celebration by viewing Shenandoah’s Wilderness from Skyline Drive, hiking a trail, joining a ranger program, learning how to use traditional tools, watching a movie about wilderness, or exploring visitor center exhibits. Special events will take place throughout the weekend.

At Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (mile 4.6 on Skyline Drive), a special activity table featuring backcountry travel and camping skills will be set up on Saturday, September 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Interpretive rangers will present several programs featuring wilderness topics throughout the weekend. Don’t forget to experience the interactive Wilderness exhibit at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center!

At Byrd Visitor Center (mile 51 on Skyline Drive), there will be a traditional tool display and demonstration from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on both days. Shenandoah National Park Trail Crew will share their expertise in how traditional tools are used to maintain trails in wilderness areas. You can try your hand at using these tools! Wilderness patrol rangers will be setting up a “wilderness campsite,” and presenting short talks about wilderness skills. Interpretive rangers will be available to help you explore the history and significance of Shenandoah’s Wilderness through exhibits and hands-on activities for children. The interactive exhibit at Byrd Visitor Center, “Within a Day’s Drive of Millions,” tells the story of Shenandoah’s establishment, including the significance of wilderness designation. A film, American Values: American Wilderness explores wilderness across the United States, and can be seen upon request in the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium.

Saturday at 11:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., the “Dogs East” organization will present a special demonstration by highly trained search and rescue dogs at the Big Meadows Amphitheater (mile 51 on Skyline Drive in the picnic grounds).

All events are free and no reservations are needed, however, there is a $30-per-vehicle entrance fee to Shenandoah National Park which is good for seven days or use a valid Annual or Lifetime Pass. Go to the Wilderness Weekend page to learn more!


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Conquering A Granite Goliath

Below is an outstanding short film by Christopher R. Abbey on what it's like to climb 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. The film has recently become an official selection for the Highlands Park Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

CONQUERING A GRANITE GOLIATH - Summiting Mount Whitney from Christopher R. Abbey on Vimeo.