Friday, August 30, 2019

Time to Make Plans for Your Fall Hiking Trip to the Smokies

For anyone considering a trip to see the beautiful fall colors of the Great Smoky Mountains, now is the time to make plans and have your reservations in place. October in the Smokies is the second most popular month in terms of park visitation. And with the awesome beauty the autumn season provides, it's really no wonder.

If you do plan to visit the Smokies this fall - or even during the upcoming Holiday Season - 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.

We really appreciate you supporting our sponsors, which helps to keep this blog and the website up and running.

Finally, if you need any help on where to hike this fall, check out our fall hiking page for the best hikes throughout the autumn period.

As always, thank you very much!

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 26, 2019

Great Smoky Mountains Announces Major Road and Campground Closures

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced that the main access roads into Cades Cove and Cataloochee will be closed for road construction projects for several months this upcoming winter.

Cove Creek Road, the main access road into Cataloochee, is expected to be closed from November 1 through February 29, 2020 for roadwork while the NC Department of Transportation repairs a landslide just outside of the park along the county road. This full road closure will prevent access into Cataloochee from the south. The Cataloochee area will remain accessible via old Highway 284, which is a narrow, winding gravel road leading from the Big Creek area of the park into Cataloochee Valley. Weather depending, this road may be closed at any time due to snow, ice, or downed trees. This route is not recommended for low clearance vehicles or trailers. The Cataloochee Campground is expected to reopen for the 2020 season by March 26.

Laurel Creek Road, the seven-mile access road leading from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove will be closed to all motorists, cyclists and pedestrians from January 3 through February 29, 2020 to repair the Bote Mountain Tunnel. The full closure, beginning just past Tremont Road, is necessary to allow equipment set-up for the repair of the internal drainage system in the walls and ceiling of the 121-foot long tunnel. Crews will enclose and heat the tunnel, allowing the temperature-sensitive repairs to be conducted during the winter months when visitation is lower. Intermittent single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15, 2020 to complete the tunnel repairs and to re-pave the tunnel area.

The Cades Cove Campground, normally open through the winter, will be closed from December 30, 2019 through March 5, 2020. To accommodate winter campers, both Elkmont Campground in TN and Smokemont Campground in NC will remain open through the year.

The Bote Mountain Tunnel, constructed in 1948, has not had any significant rehabilitation work since that time. Crews will replace nine drainage chases requiring track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel will also be sealed and repaired. Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months.

For more information on road closures in the park, please visit:

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Nantahala Gorge is Closed After Landslides

Update from NCDOT as of Monday afternoon:
NCDOT officials are preparing to open U.S. 19/74 through the Nantahala Gorge TONIGHT around 8p.m. Crews have made significant strides in rebuilding a side of the road and clearing debris.

The Jackson County Rescue Squad posted this blurb about a massive landslide in the Nantahala Gorge on their Facebook page last night. The landslide occurred near where N.C. 28 joins U.S. 19/74 near Bryson City in Swain County:
Two large landslides have trapped over 20-30 civilians and responders between slides...and currently working on an evac plan... no one trapped in debris. Rescue crews are advising the river has been choked down to 10 wide in these spots and Duke Energy is shutting down the river. NC HWY 74/19 will be shutdown for several days possibly while crews remove debris and assess for potential hazards. Avoid the area!!!
Since that posting the vehicles that were trapped have been able to get out. However, according to the NCDOT Twitter feed, as of this morning:
Operations will continue at least into Tuesday. A detour has been established. Westbound vehicles will take N.C. 28 West to N.C. 143 South to N.C. 129 South U.S. 19/74.
Also from NCDOT:
NCDOT crews have started rebuilding the embankment and shoulder by the a slide in the Nantahala Gorge. The slide washed out a section 80-feet wide and knocked down branches 25 feet high above the road.
This was mentioned on the U.S. Forest Service - National Forests in North Carolina Facebook page early this afternoon:
Rafting and kayaking on the Nantahala River has been temporarily suspended. Debris from the landslides has entered the river making passage extremely hazardous.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 23, 2019

Noah Bud Ogle Cabin and Nature Trail Temporary Closure

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary, weekday closure of the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin, Noah Bud Ogle Nature Trail, and associated parking area to allow crews to make needed cabin repairs. The area will be closed August 26 through September 12 on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. The area will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays.

The Noah Bud Ogle cabin is located on Cherokee Orchard Road near Gatlinburg, TN. The cabin, barn, and tub mill are preserved along a mile-long nature trail. The unique cabin design joins two structures together by a common chimney. Crews will be making much-needed repairs to the chimney.

For more information on road and trail closures, please visit the park website at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 19, 2019

Shenandoah National Park Announces Reopening of Big Meadows Wayside

Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jennifer Flynn is pleased to announce the reopening of Big Meadows Wayside at mile 51 on Skyline Drive. The popular historic campstore, gift shop, and restaurant has been undergoing renovations since last winter.

Superintendent Flynn said, “This work has prepared the Wayside for another 50 years of service while retaining the historic fabric of the building.” Among the most visible changes is the reconfiguration of the interior space. The restaurant has been returned to its historic placement on the meadow side of the building so diners have a view of the iconic Big Meadow.

Other changes include a fire suppression system and an entirely new electrical system. The renovation was completed by the Park’s concessioner Delaware North, Inc. (DNC). DNC officials joined Superintendent Flynn for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, August 15, 2019.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Smokies Resumes Paving Work on Little River Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the pavement preservation project on Little River Road will resume Monday, August 19. A thin pavement overlay will be applied to the entire length of the roadway between Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Townsend Wye, along with associated pull-offs and parking lots, and Elkmont Road leading to the campground. The project should be completed by September 20, 2019, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather.

Visitors traveling on Little River Road should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays from August 19 through September 20. Single-lane, daytime and nighttime closures are permitted from 7:00 p.m. on Sundays through 5:00 p.m. on Fridays. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations. Parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently for pavement application. To better accommodate visitors during periods of high visitation, no lane closures will be allowed during weekends, holidays, or on Sunday, September 15 due to anticipated high traffic associated with the annual Fall Rod Run in Pigeon Forge.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $ 6.5 million paving contract to GC Works, Inc. Road work will include the application of a thin lift overlay to preserve the life of the pavement. Potholes will be patched before application of the pavement overlay.

For more information about temporary road closures, please visit the park website at or follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Programming Note: Friends Across the Mountains Telethon Tonight

Tonight is the 25th annual Friends Across the Mountains Telethon. As in years past, the event will again be broadcasted on WBIR-TV Channel 10 in Knoxville, TN and WLOS-TV Channel 13 in Asheville, NC from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM.

The broadcast will highlight projects and programs that Friends of the Smokies has funded over the years. It's a fun event that raises awareness of both the Park's needs (as the only major national park without an entrance fee), and the ways that Friends of the Smokies helps to fulfill some of those needs every year. The telethon raises roughly $200,000 each year, and has raised more than $3.6 million dollars over the last 24 years.

Volunteers will be on hand to help answer phones and keep running totals of the money raised throughout the evening.

If you wish, you can make a donation right now by clicking here.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Monday, August 12, 2019

USDA Forest Service extends comment period for draft regulations on management of national forests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is extending the public comment period on proposed changes to modernize how the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed rule would give the Forest Service the tools and flexibility to manage land and tackle critical challenges like wildfire, insects and disease while improving service to the American people. Based on the importance of the proposed rule, the Forest Service is extending the comment period by 14 days to allow more time for public review and comment.

The proposed rule was published June 13, 2019, and the public comment period was originally set to end on August 12, 2019. With the extension, the comment period now ends on August 26, 2019.

Revising the rule will improve forest conditions and make it simpler for people to use and enjoy their national forests and grasslands at lower cost to the taxpayer. The revised rule will also make it easier to maintain the roads, trails, campgrounds and other facilities people need to use and enjoy their public lands.

This announcement will also be published in the Federal Register. Public comments are reviewed and considered when developing the final rule. Instructions on how to provide comments are included in the online notice.

More information is available at

Comments may be submitted through by searching docket number FS-2019-0010. Comments can also be submitted by mail to NEPA Services Group, care of Amy Barker, USDA Forest Service, 125 South State Street, Suite 1705, Salt Lake City, UT 84138; or by email at

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Friday, August 9, 2019

Smokey Bear turns 75 today!

Happy Birthday to Smokey Bear, the mascot of the U. S. Forest Service created to educate the public on the dangers of forest fires.

Smokey Bear's famous message "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" was created in 1944 by the Ad Council, making it the longest running Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign in U.S. history.

Smokey's correct full name is Smokey Bear. In 1952, the songwriters Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins had a hit with "Smokey the Bear". The pair said that "the" was added to Smokey's name to keep the song's rhythm. This small change has caused confusion among Smokey fans ever since.

The U.S. Forest Service authorized the creation of Smokey Bear on August 9, 1944. Smokey's debut poster (see picture above - on right) was delivered on October 10 of that year by artist Albert Staehle.

Be sure to check out the Smokey Bear website to see the history of the AD campaign. The site includes an interactive trail by decade with an extensive collection of old posters, TV/radio spots (including the famous Bambi TV spot), and other memorabilia.

Ramble On: A History of Hiking

Thursday, August 8, 2019

N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation Seeks Public Input on Elk Knob State Park Master Plan

The North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation is seeking public input on the Elk Knob State Park Master Plan. The Master Plan will be a twenty-year plan that covers the entire state park, which contains over 4,200 acres spanning Watauga and Ashe Counties. The park is sited within the Amphibolite Mountains, an ecological hotspot of global significance.

E2 Landscape Architecture in Asheville is working with the Division and the public to develop the master plan, initially identifying both the recreation and conservation needs for the park. Stakeholder input is important to the process, and the open house-style public meeting will allow feedback from the community.

The public meeting will be held on Aug. 22 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Optimist Park Clubhouse, located at 1012 State Farm Road in Boone. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and can expect to spend 20-30 minutes to review, discuss, and weigh in on their preferred recreational amenities for the park.

Amenities that will be considered for the master plan include a natural and cultural heritage center or visitor center, day use areas, campground areas, and hiking trails including sections of the Northern Peaks State Trail.

An online public survey is available for those who cannot attend the public meeting. Interested citizens can take the survey by visiting

Ramble On: A History of Hiking