Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Smokies Implements Vehicle-Free Wednesdays in Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the implementation of vehicle-free access along the Cades Cove Loop Road each Wednesday, from June 17 through September 30, as part of a pilot study to improve the visitor experience. The park proposed the study due to congested parking areas and disruption of visitor services associated with the vehicle-free periods on Wednesday and Saturday mornings during the summer months that have been in effect for several years.

As part of the public planning process, park officials received feedback from 2,278 individuals from 37 states during the comment period in March. More than 60% of the comments were supportive of the trial change, and 20% of the comments were in opposition of the proposal. About 15% of the comments expressed a desire for the Saturday morning closures to continue, but most of these individuals also supported a full-day closure on Wednesdays. Several respondents expressed additional concerns including 8% of comments requesting consideration of a shuttle operation, 4% of comments noting concerns about limiting access for people with disabilities during the vehicle-free days, and a variety of other suggestions regarding congestion, safety, and descendant access.

The park began collecting data on visitor use during vehicle-free time periods in 1995. Over the last 25 years, use has continued to increase with up to 1,100 people a day cycling or walking along the roadway during the 3-hour closure time period. This increased use resulted in several challenges including congestion, lack of parking, and disruption in campground and picnic area operations. During the morning closures, access to the campground, picnic area, horse concession operation, campground store, and hiking/equestrian trails is blocked to accommodate parking for the biking/pedestrian opportunity on the Loop Road. As a result, traffic leading to the Cades Cove area is often gridlocked by a line of motorists waiting for the Loop Road to open at 10:00 a.m.

A categorical exclusion was signed in June 2020, completing the National Park Service's environmental compliance process for initiation of the pilot study. Park officials have incorporated feedback from the planning process into a monitoring program to assess the effectiveness of the trial in improving safety and the visitor experience for multiple user groups. By closing the roadway for the entire day, bicyclists and pedestrians will have over 12 hours of daylight to use the Loop Road without vehicles. By spreading use throughout the day, parking should be more available with less impacts to campground, picnic area, and concession operations. By eliminating the Saturday morning closures, more motorists will have access to the Cades Cove area for these services along with scenic driving on what is traditionally the busiest day of the week for travel in the area. In addition, park staff and volunteers will be able to better support visitor programs on Wednesdays and Saturdays instead of devoting all personnel to traffic management and parking.

The results of the pilot study will be evaluated by park management to inform future planning. Vehicle access will continue to be provided seven days a week, October through April, and six days a week during the trial period, June through September, providing ample opportunities for park descendants and visitors to enjoy Cades Cove. Mobility-assisted devices are welcomed during vehicle-free days on the Cades Cove Loop Road for individuals with disabilities. If visitors need accommodation to safely access Cades Cove on designated vehicle-free days, they should call 865-448-4105 for more information in advance of their visit.






Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
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Big South Fork Increasing Recreational Access to Tennessee Campgrounds

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is increasing recreational access. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Beginning today, June 3, Big South fork National River and Recreation Area will reopen access to Bandy Creek Campground, Bandy Creek Group Campground, and Station Camp Campground. Reservations can only be made at www.recreation.gov at this time. With public health in mind, the visitor center remains closed.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Big South Fork, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas. “We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.”

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

Updates on park operations will continue to be posted online at http://www.nps.gov/biso







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Brewpub Seeks "Chief Hiking Officer"

Hard to believe, but this is no joke! In fact, this just might be dream come true for one lucky, beer-loving hiker! The Devils Backbone Brewing Company is currently accepting applications for a "Chief Hiking Officer". Located in Lexington, Virginia in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Devils Backbone is seeking one person to thru-hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in 2021, and will pay them $20,000 to do so. Below is some additional information on the position from the brewers website, including a short video:
Devils Backbone is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail, so we can get our fill of fresh air any time. But folks always tell us how they wish they had the time to trek the AT from Georgia to Maine. So, why couldn’t we sponsor one lucky hiker and help them check “conquer the AT” off their bucket list?

Well, that’s what we’re doing! This spring we’re accepting applications for our 2021 Chief Hiking Officer. That’s right: we’re going to pay someone to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2021. We’ll outfit our CHO with gear, fly ‘em to the trail head, and throw some big ol’ beer parties along the way. Plus, there’s a $20k stipend.

Qualifications? You’ve gotta love hiking and beer. We mean really love it. We’re talking 2,200 miles, camping under the stars, pack-in-pack-out for 5-7 months love it. If this sounds like your dream job, read up on exactly what we’re looking for in our CHO below.


For more information on this unique opportunity, and how to apply, please click here.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, June 1, 2020

National Trails Day® 2020 Goes Virtual

Each year people all across the country unite on the first Saturday of June to celebrate American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day®. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events won’t be held in person this year on June 6, but American Hiking is still fighting for trail preservation and equitable access to the outdoors. On National Trails Day® 2020 American Hiking Society will partner with land managers, volunteers, and the public to take actions from home that preserve trails and public lands and help ensure access for all to quality natural spaces.

“While the COVID-19 quarantines have put into sharp focus how much our minds and bodies need time outside every day, the trails and parks we value are under-resourced and not everyone has easy access to quality green space,” explains Kate Van Waes, Executive Director of American Hiking Society. “In honor of National Trails Day®, we are encouraging everyone to take American Hiking’s #NationalTrailsDay Pledge to preserve trails and parks and fight for equitable access.”

In addition to taking the #NationalTrailsDay Pledge, American Hiking is encouraging the public to join the National Trails Day® digital movement and share on social media why access to trails and natural space are important to them. Tag photos with #NationalTrailsDay and @AmericanHiking to be entered into a photo contest with a chance to win one of multiple prize packages of outdoor gear.

In the upcoming weeks, American Hiking will provide easy actions the public can take to preserve trails and fight for equitable access to the outdoors, even while social-distancing.

American Hiking’s National Trails Day® is made possible by the generous support of Corporate Sponsors – Athletic Brewing Co., Merrell, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., REI Co-Op, Popular Mechanics, Adventure Medical Kits. Federal Partners include the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Federal Highway Administration, and U.S. Forest Service.







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Guidance Issued to Help A.T. Hikers Minimize COVID-19 Risks

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recently released updated guidance for visitors seeking to visit the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) while minimizing the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. The guidance covers a wide range of topics and considerations for hikers, including keeping hike locations local, minimizing time spent in towns, and using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer in addition to standard hiking gear.

“As warmer weather takes hold and some states’ stay-at-home orders are rolled back or expire, we understand that many people are anxious to return to public lands like the Appalachian Trail,” said Sandra Marra, ATC President & CEO. “We believe the scientific information has become clearer on how to keep yourself and those around you safe from COVID-19, though we still encourage everyone to use an abundance of caution and practice social distancing wherever possible.”

The guidance also recommends that A.T. thru-hikers continue to postpone their journeys for the time being, as thru-hiking typically requires travel through dozens of towns across state lines, presenting multiple opportunities for COVID-19 to be spread in Trailside communities. However, the ATC has also identified three scenarios, any one of which would lead to a review of this recommendation: the removal of all A.T. closures in place due to the pandemic, a flattening or reduction of the COVID-19 infection rate in all A.T. states for a period of two weeks, and the availability of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

This guidance was developed by a task force convened by the ATC with the specific purpose of finding the safest ways for Trail users, volunteers, and staff to re-engage with the A.T. during the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force is comprised of representatives from ATC staff, federal and state agency partners, Trail maintaining clubs, A.T. Communities, local leaders and medical experts to help ensure multiple perspectives are represented in any guidance issued.

To view this guidance and learn more about the ATC’s efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the A.T., please visit appalachiantrail.org/covid-19.







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
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Monday, May 25, 2020

Daniel Boone National Forest moves up reopening of Red River Gorge

The Daniel Boone National Forest opened the Red River Gorge and Redbird Crest Off-Highway Vehicle Trail System on Friday, May 22. The forest had previously announced a June 3 opening date.

“In light of the Governor’s decision to lift the travel ban on May 22, we felt we could move up the reopening of the Red River Gorge and Redbird Crest OHV Trail to the same date, while still emphasizing safety,” Daniel Boone National Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen said. “We look forward to seeing our recreation sites being enjoyed by the people from the communities we serve.”

Most day-use sites, such as picnic areas and shooting ranges, as well as the White Sulphur Off Highway Vehicle Trail System will tentatively reopen on June 3.

Most developed campgrounds are tentatively scheduled to reopen on June 11. Visitors who already have campground reservations through www.Recreation.gov will be notified via email or text message if there are any changes.

The general forest area and most boat launches and trails have remained open to hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, dispersed camping, hunting, fishing, etc.

Although not accepting in-person visits, offices remain open and operational. Visitors are encouraged to call the local Forest Service office for general information or assistance with obtaining maps and passes.

As recreation sites begin to open, the Leave No Trace 7 Principles are more important than ever. Make a plan, be prepared and leave no trace. If a trailhead parking area is full, please consider another location.

“We encourage you to go outside and enjoy the fresh air, but take extra steps to do this safely, Olsen said. “Be extra cautious and avoid high-risk activities that might require health care or rescue.”

The Daniel Boone National Forest continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation. Please review current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local and state guidelines for social distancing and cloth face coverings.

For up-to-date information and the projected opening schedule on the Daniel Boone National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/dbnf/



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Four National Forests Reopen Trailheads and Access Points to Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The USDA Forest Service will open a series of trailheads and access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail yesterday, May 22. The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in Georgia, Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina, Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia will participate in the coordinated reopening.

The Triple Crown in Virginia will remain closed, which includes Dragon’s Tooth trailhead.

To recreate responsibly outdoors, avoid congregating at parking areas, refrain from gathering in large groups and maintain a 6 feet distance from others, especially when passing other hikers.

Visitors to our National Forests are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html. Bathroom facilities may not be available. Shelters will remain closed at this time.

While work continues opening trails and roads, staffing may remain limited to encourage safe distancing. This may also cause a delay in rescue operations. It is not recommended that visitors engage in risky recreation activities at this time.

Find the latest recreation information for each national forest at: Georgia, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, www.fs.usda.gov/conf  North Carolina, Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc Tennessee, Cherokee National Forest, www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee/ Virginia, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, www.fs.usda.gov/gwj







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, May 22, 2020

Backcountry Campsites Now Open at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park as Phased Accessibility Continues

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park’s (NHP) five backcountry campsites along the Ridge Trail are now open. The National Park Service (NPS) continues to work servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities in closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners are paramount. At Cumberland Gap, we are examining each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance,” said Park Superintendent Charles Sellars. “We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.”

The park’s 19-mile long Ridge Trail “zigzags” along the spine of Cumberland Mountain following closely the Kentucky/Virginia border. The backcountry campsites include Gibson Gap, located 5 miles east of the Pinnacle Overlook; Hensley Camp, Martins Fork and Chadwell Gap, all near the historic Hensley Settlement; and White Rocks, situated near the far eastern end of the park. The campsites provide a perfect respite after exploring gorgeous geologic and historic features along the trail. “Backcountry campers are treated to the spectacularly colored Sand Cave rock shelter with a waterfall cascading over its lip, can gaze afar into Virginia from high atop the White Rocks Overlook, and meander down fence-lined lanes amongst the richly weathered chestnut hewn cabins at Hensley Settlement,” shares Park Ranger Brittony Beason, adding “Happy trails to you!”

Backcountry campsite reservations are required and must be made by calling 606-248-2817 daily between 9 am and 4 pm or via Facebook messenger. Group size maximum is 10. Only one party will be assigned to each campsite. There is no potable water along the trail. Water must be carried in or purified. Bear proof storage cable systems, located at each campsite, must be utilized. Social distancing guidelines must be followed. “Leave No Trace,” including pack it in, pack it out should be the mantra of all backcountry users.

Backcountry permits will be issued electronically.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on the park’s website www.nps.gov/cuga and social media channels.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Bicyclist Fatality on Foothills Parkway

Michael Barker, age 59 from Seymour, TN, was riding his bicycle approximately 5 miles east of Walland when he suffered a cardiac arrest. Emergency responders and medically trained bystanders performed CPR on site before Barker was transported to Blount Memorial Hospital and pronounced deceased.

In addition to National Park Service employees, emergency responders with American Medical Response (AMR) and Blount County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene. No additional details are available at this time.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Great Smoky Mountains Increases Recreational Access

Park officials were joined by Second Lady Karen Pence and Deputy Secretary of the Interior Katherine MacGregor at Clingmans Dome to talk about the mental health benefits of being outdoors and announced the next phase in the park’s plan to restore public access to more roads and picnic areas.

Mrs. Pence is the Lead Ambassador for PREVENTS, an interagency task force that stands for the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide. The task force launched a public health awareness campaign called “More Than Ever Before” to highlight the importance of checking in with family, friends and loved ones during the pandemic. During her visit, Mrs. Pence talked about this campaign, the holistic benefits of being outside, and the importance of public access to our country’s incredible national parks and public lands.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgent need for us to pay closer attention to our mental health and emotional well-being,” said Second Lady Karen Pence. “Our amazing national parks offer many mental health benefits and more than ever before, we must ensure that we are taking care of ourselves and each other."

Mrs. Pence, Deputy Secretary MacGregor, and Superintendent Cash opened Clingmans Dome Road today as the first step in the next phase of the park’s reopening plan. Plans to open the following areas on Saturday, May 23 were also announced:

* Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
* Big Creek Road and Big Creek Picnic Area
* Cosby Road and Cosby Picnic Area
* Greenbrier Road (to Ramsey Cascades Trailhead only)
* Tremont Road
* All park trails

“With nearly every state in the nation taking some action to reopen, what a joy it is to be in Tennessee with Second Lady Karen Pence to reopen areas of our most visited National Park for the enjoyment of the American People,” said Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. “The Great Smoky Mountains offer over half a million acres to relax and enjoy some fresh air and Vitamin D. Today we are thrilled to expand access for Americans to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of this stunning landscape.”

The park provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation with over 800 miles of trails, quiet walkways, and self-guiding nature trails where visitors can disperse for a safe hiking experience. The health and safety of visitors, employees, and volunteers is the number one priority for the National Park Service. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for this pandemic includes social distancing and wearing face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained. By restoring access to additional roads this week, the Smokies offers even more opportunities for visitors to spread out and responsibly recreate across the park.

“We appreciate the patience of our visitors as we work together to safely share this space,” said Superintendent Cash. “When you’re planning your trip, have several options in mind so that you switch plans if you find an area congested. We want your Smokies experience to offer you a place to safely relax and recharge during these challenging times.”

Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to increase recreational access and services across the park in alignment with guidance provided by the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, White House, CDC, and public health authorities.

The park began restoring access to the park on May 9 as part of a phased reopening plan with the following objectives: 1) support state health restrictions and local efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19; 2) allow the park, partners, and concession operators time to implement and improve mitigation actions with lighter levels of visitation; and 3) allow for an assessment of how returning visitors affect COVID-19 curves within surrounding communities. The park has developed a range of mitigation actions that include new disinfection procedures and increased cleaning frequency for facilities; installation of protective barriers in visitor contact facilities; new employee practices for shared workplaces and vehicles; and focused messaging to prepare visitors for safe outdoor recreation.

Visitors are encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines and to wear facial coverings in busy areas like the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower when other visitors are present. Visitor centers and campgrounds will remain closed. These facilities will open when safe and appropriate mitigation measures are in place.

Park managers urge visitors to follow public health guidance for a safe and responsible visit: choose trails and overlooks without congested parking areas; visit early in the morning; stay in your vehicle while viewing wildlife and allow traffic to proceed; follow Leave No Trace principals by packing out everything you bring into the park; maintain social distance from other visitors; and wear face coverings where social distancing is not possible. For the most up to date information about facility openings, service hours, and access, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, the park offers a wide variety of outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the Smokes has to offer. 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 trip planning.



Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, May 18, 2020

All Trailheads Now Open at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park as Phased Accessibility Continues

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, all trailheads at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (NHP) are now open as the park continues to increase accessibility in phased stages. The National Park Service (NPS) continues to work servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities in closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

With public health in mind, the following at Cumberland Gap remain temporarily closed:

Pinnacle Road
Wilderness Road Campground
Backcountry Campsites
Visitor Center
Picnic Shelters
Restrooms

While the Pinnacle Road is closed, visitors can hike several trails leading to the Pinnacle Overlook for a commanding view into Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the historic Cumberland Gap mountain pass, which served as the first doorway to the west. On clear days, a faint view of the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina is possible, a distance of 100 miles.

Visitors accessing the Lewis Hollow Trailhead will need to park in the Colson Lane parking area on the entrance road leading to the Wilderness Road Campground.

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities. “Visitors are reminded to plan accordingly as no restroom facilities are open at this time,” emphasized Sellars.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on the park’s website www.nps.gov/cuga and social media channels.







Jeff
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Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Pisgah National Forest begins reopening trails and roads, and lifts restrictions on dispersed camping

The Pisgah National Forest will begin to reopen many trails and roads and partially lift restrictions for dispersed camping May 14, using a site-by-site approach, including assessment of facility cleanliness, maintenance status, and health and safety of recreation areas. Facilities and services may remain limited at some sites.

Popular recreation areas that will reopen include, but are not limited to:

Catawba Falls, TR 225
Brown Mountain Off Highway Vehicle Area
Black Balsam Road, FSR 816, and associated trails
Bent Creek Road, FSR 479 and most trails and trailheads

Restrictions on dispersed camping will be lifted for the entire Appalachian Ranger District. Dispersed camping restrictions will also be lifted for the Grandfather Ranger District with the exception of overnight camping within the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area on the weekends, which requires a permit. For the month of May, the Forest Service will not be issuing these permits. Dispersed camping restrictions remain in place for the Pisgah Ranger District. These decisions were made in coordination with county and local partners to ensure the safety of the public and employees.

Visitors can expect restrooms to remain closed and trash services to continue to be suspended. Please pack out what you pack in and remember to use Leave No Trace Principles.

Forest Service staff will continue to perform risk assessments to determine which recreation areas can resume operations in accordance with county and local partners and current public health guidance.

For a full list of re-openings, please click here.







Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
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TetonHikingTrails.com

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, May 14, 2020

June Hike of the Month: Spence Field / Rocky Top

As you're probably well aware, June is just around the corner, which means that mountain laurel will soon be blooming atop Spence Field.

In my humble opinion, the hike to Spence Field out of Cades Cove is probably one of the most underrated hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. In fact, 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 consider hiking another 1.2 miles to reach 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 of both destinations:


For more information on the hike to 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
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Cherokee NF To Reopen Developed Recreation Sites with Projected Schedule

The Cherokee National Forest will reopen developed recreation sites beginning May 15 using a site-by-site approach, including assessment of facility cleanliness, maintenance status, and health and safety of recreation areas. Expect re-openings to not be quick or permanent. Click here for projected opening dates.

Some day-use sites, such as shooting ranges, picnic areas and small campgrounds, are currently scheduled to reopen on May 15. Additional sites and campgrounds are schedule to open May 24. Most remaining campgrounds will likely open the first week of June. Projected opening dates may vary depending on circumstances, and it may be necessary to not open or to close areas again if conditions change.

Most boat launches, trails and the general forest area, including river corridors, have remained open to hiking, biking, boating, dispersed camping, hunting, fishing, etc.

“Closing any site for any reason is not one we take lightly, but protecting our visitors and employees remains our highest priority. We are approaching this phased re-opening with safety in mind,” said Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris. “We are looking forward to seeing our recreation sites being enjoyed by the people from the communities we serve.” Individuals with paid reservations starting May 15 that may experience a cancellation will be contacted by email. Full refunds will automatically be processed by Recreation.gov with no cancellation fees. Individuals should not attempt to contact Recreation.gov to request a refund, as that could lead to a cancellation fee charge. Reservations made farther into the future will remain valid, unless circumstances demand further closures.

The Forest Service’s highest priority is ensuring the safety of the public and their employees while supporting mission critical functions. Please review current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local and state guidelines for social distancing and cloth face coverings.

For information on the projected schedule of Cherokee National Forest recreation site opening dates and locations by Ranger District, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee/







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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, May 11, 2020

N.C. State Parks Begin Phased Reopening

Following guidance from the Governor’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina’s state parks will increase recreational access and services beginning May 9. The Division of Parks and Recreation is working with state and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and use a phased, collaborative approach to increase access to North Carolina State Parks in a systematic manner.

Beginning May 9, 29 state parks that were closed will reopen including most roads, trails, boat ramps, and restrooms. Some access areas may be closed, so visitors should check park webpages for details. Campgrounds, picnic shelters, swim areas, playgrounds, visitor centers, and other common gathering areas will remain closed during this phase.

The health and safety of employees, visitors, and residents of our state remain the highest priority as we move forward with easing restrictions at state parks. Park superintendents have examined each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with public health guidance. Cleaning procedures effective for COVID-19 disinfection are established and staff are trained to disinfect restrooms and high-touch areas. Park staff have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce the spread risk of COVID-19 as they interact with the public and clean restrooms and other areas.

“The importance of our parks and trails to North Carolinians has become quite apparent during this pandemic,” said State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson. “While we look forward to welcoming visitors back to the parks that have been closed, we are approaching this phased reopening with safety in mind. As we balance the high visitation we expect with our responsibility to protect park staff and natural resources, we ask that everyone be respectful of park staff, other visitors, and the parks’ natural areas.”

A return to full operations will occur in phases. The current plan calls for reopening campgrounds in the second phase, and the third and final phase will include opening common areas and resuming educational activities and other programming.

To ensure health and safety, park visitors should follow the “Three W’s” as outlined by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services – wear a mask or cloth face covering; wait in line at least six feet away from others, and wash hands frequently. Visitors should also follow local health orders, maintain social distancing, bring hand sanitizer and reusable water bottles, avoid high-risk activities that could lead to calling first responders who are needed elsewhere during the pandemic, and practice Leave No Trace principles.

For more Covid-19 information, consult the DHHS website.

Park staff ask that visitors check the park webpage for detailed information before their visit rather than calling the park office. For the most up to date information about facility openings, service hours, and access, please visit the Division of Parks and Recreation’s website at ncparks.gov/open.







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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Increasing Recreational Access to All Park Trails Beginning May 9

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (NHP) is increasing recreational access to all park trails. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. Beginning Saturday May 9, 2020, Cumberland Gap NHP will reopen access to all trails.

Additionally, all restrooms remain temporarily closed and trash collection operations continue to remain suspended due to the limited availability of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment necessary for sustained disinfection operations necessary for the protection of park visitors and park staff.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continue to be paramount. At Cumberland Gap, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored,” said Park Superintendent Charles Sellars. “We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.”

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Park staff will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on the park’s website www.nps.gov/cuga and social media channels







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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, May 8, 2020

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Increased Access to Historic Motor Route

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Blue Ridge Parkway officials are increasing recreational access to sections of the motor road previously closed to motor vehicle traffic in North Carolina. The National Park Service is working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access to the Parkway and park sites across the country.

Beginning Saturday, May 9, 2020, the Blue Ridge Parkway will reopen gates providing motor vehicle access to the southernmost 14 miles of the park, from Milepost 454 – 469, in coordination with the Qualla Boundary and Great Smoky Mountains National Park planned reopening.

Beginning Friday, May 15, 2020, the Parkway will reopen gates providing motor vehicle access at the following locations in North Carolina, once initial seasonal mowing and road preparations are complete:

* Milepost 292-296.5 near Blowing Rock, including Moses Cone Parking Area and Hwy 221 Bass Lake Parking Lot.
* Milepost 298.6-308 through Grandfather Mountain area, including Rough Ridge and Linn Cove Viaduct
* Milepost 316.4 Linville Falls Spur Road, including parking at Linville Falls trailheads
* Milepost 334-342 including Crabtree Falls Area, near Little Switzerland, NC
* Milepost 355-375.6 from Mt. Mitchell to Ox Creek, including Craggy Gardens
* Milepost 377.4 Parking areas at Craven Gap (Town Mountain Rd) for MST Trail access
* Milepost 384.7 Roadside parking at MST Trailheads at US 74A Parkway access ramps
* Milepost 393-454 from French Broad River Overlook and south to Soco Gap

In addition, the following areas continue to be accessible:

* All Parkway trails, and
* All other sections of the motor route in North Carolina and Virginia previously accessible to motor vehicle traffic.

Road maintenance projects are underway in some of these areas, visitors may experience delays or one-lane closures and should check the Parkway’s Road Closure page at https://go.nps.gov/roadinfo for more information.

In alignment with federal and state public health guidance, the following areas remain closed at this time:

* Road closure from Milepost 0 to 13 in Virginia,
* Milepost 85.9 Peaks of Otter Visitor Center and Sharp Top Parking Areas closed,
* Milepost 92.5 Sharp Top Parking Widening closed at Appalachian Trail crossing, and all
* Seasonal visitor service facilities including campgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms and visitor centers.

“We are pleased to once again provide motor vehicle access to these popular Blue Ridge Parkway locations. We know the park’s recreation opportunities and scenic beauty provide important ways to connect with our natural environment during this time, and for many a leisurely drive on the Parkway provides solace,” said J.D. Lee, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “Our phased approach to the 2020 visitor season is focused on balancing the enjoyment and protection of this park with the enjoyment and protection of our visitors. I encourage everyone who visits the Parkway in the coming days to recreate responsibly while here, whether that’s social distancing on park trails or driving safely on this beautiful, scenic drive.”

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. In the coming weeks, the operational approach on the Blue Ridge Parkway will be to examine each facility function and service to ensure operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. Park officials will continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders in North Carolina and Virginia, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted at www.nps.gov/blri and the Parkway’s social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.







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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Trail Closures in Conjunction With Coronavirus

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is increasing recreational access and services through a phased approach that aligns with local, state, and national opening plans beginning Saturday, May 9.

Park managers have implemented an Adaptive Operations Plan with five operational phases. The park’s plan is designed to be adaptive to regional conditions by increasing or decreasing the scope of park operations as appropriate. Each operational phase will include a two-week assessment period before moving on to the next phase.

When the park opens the following trails will be closed:

Laurel Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail and Clingmans Dome Tower.

The park recommends that you check this park page often for the latest updates on open facilities and access: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm All openings are based on available staffing. Temporary closures may occur on short notice.

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, the park offers a wide variety of outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the Smokes has to offer. 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 trip planning.




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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, May 4, 2020

Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area is Increasing Recreational Access to Park Trails and Backcountry

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is increasing recreational access. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Beginning today, May 4, Big South Fork will reopen access to trails and backcountry camping.

With public health in mind, restroom facilities, campgrounds, Charit Creek Lodge, Bandy Creek Stables, and visitor centers remain closed at this time.

“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Big South Fork, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas. “We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.”

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on the park website: nps.gov/biso




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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Blue Ridge Parkway Begins Pavement Preservation Work in Virginia

The National Park Service announced today that over 80 miles of the historic motor route in three primary areas will be resurfaced as part of a pavement preservation program on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Prep work has begun in all areas and resurfacing is expected to start in mid-May and continue through November of 2020, with no work scheduled during October. Work locations, within scheduled project areas, will change weekly, and visitors in active work zone areas should expect single lane closures and delays. The National Park Service appreciates the public’s patience and cooperation during this project.

Work will take place on the following sections of Parkway, and includes the paved road-side pullouts:

* Milepost 0 to 27, Northern Terminus to Whetstone Ridge (27 miles)

* Milepost 37 to 65, Irish Gap to James River Area (28 miles)

* Milepost 175 to 200, Mabry Mill to Fancy Gap area (25 miles)

* As with any road project, motorists and park users must exercise caution. In the interest of visitor safety, park visitors are asked to:

Work will continue to take place in areas that have been closed to motor vehicles in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Pedestrians and cyclists in these areas should expect construction vehicles and activity while recreating and use extreme caution.

* Check the Parkway’s Real Time Road Map for regularly updated work zone information.

* Expect delays while work takes place Monday through Friday. Lane closures will be managed with flagging operations and a pilot car to lead traffic through work zones.

* Observe reduced speed limits in work zones, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; to maintain safe operations and allow for proper curing of pavement.

* Anticipate loose gravel on the road surface during pavement curing times. Bicyclists and motorcyclists are asked to exercise extreme caution as loose gravel on top of the paved surface, during the required curing time, could result in loss of control. On-site message boards will recommend alternate routes.

* When circumstances prevent bicyclists from keeping up with traffic, dismount and move off of the road to let the on-coming traffic pass when traveling through a single lane closure.

Project vendors will work in short sections and repeat the resurfacing process as they move from section to section of the full project. The steps in this process include prepping the surface, applying a chip seal surface of liquid asphalt and stone chips, allowing the surface to properly cure, vacuuming the work area to minimize loose gravel, applying a fog seal on top of the chip seal surface, and finishing by painting new road marking lines. The process will then repeat on the next section of the project.

The Blue Ridge Parkway inventory of paved roads includes bridges, tunnels, parking areas, spur roads, service roads, campground and picnic area roads, and the 469-mile Parkway motor route itself. Given the large inventory of paved surfaces along the Parkway, and in order to effectively invest available funding, the pavement preservation strategy focuses on keeping the good sections good and returning fair sections to good condition.

Pavement preservation is a regular road maintenance strategy in national parks. Studies find that for each dollar spent on pavement preservation between $6 and $10 in future pavement rehabilitation costs are saved. Funding for road maintenance in national parks, including the Parkway, comes in large part from the Highway Trust Fund, which is derived from a federal gas tax managed by the Federal Highway Administration.




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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Announces Partial Reopening

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is increasing recreational access and services. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Beginning May 9, the park will reopen many roads and trails. The health and safety of employees, partners, volunteers, visitors, and local residents remains the highest priority in park reopening decisions. Park managers will examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored. Park managers will also continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for all users.

“We recognize this closure has been extremely difficult for our local residents, as well as park visitors from across the country, who seek the park as a special place for healing, exercise, recreation, and inspiration,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are approaching this phased reopening with that in mind, as we balance our responsibility to protect park resources and the health and safety of everyone.”

Park managers are implementing new safety measures in facility operations and services to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as areas reopen to the public. Campgrounds, picnic pavilions, visitor centers, and many secondary roads will remain closed during the first reopening phase, which is expected to last for at least two weeks. Some of these measures will include disinfectant fogging operations for restrooms and public buildings, installation of plexiglass shields at visitor centers, personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers, new safety protocols for emergency services staff, and reduced group size limits.

While many areas will be accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. The park typically has more than one million visitors each month, May through October, from across the country. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

For the most up to date information about facility openings, service hours, and access, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, the park offers a wide variety of outstanding hikes that take-in the best scenery the Smokes has to offer. 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 trip planning.




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

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

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 its summit. In addition to its excellent views into Cades Cove, Gregory Bald provides for one of the best flame azalea shows in the entire 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 atop 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 length 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 year, 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
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park