Great Smoky Mountains National Park Kicks Off Phased Reopening

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park began Phase One of its gradual reopenings on Saturday, Oct. 22. The National Park opened many trails, roads, and picnic areas.

Phase One will most likely last about two weeks. The open areas include Newfound Gap, Little River, Cherokee Orchard, Laurel Creek, Cades Cove Loop, Lakeview Drive, and Deep Creek roads. The park also opened restrooms and picnic areas along those roads.

Trailheads that remain closed include Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Clingmans Dome Tower. Additionally, the park will not issue Appalachian Trail permits for the Deep Creek Road area.

During Phase One, visitor centers and campgrounds remain closed. At other outdoor locations, the park will issue permits. These are for groups of up to 10 people for at most 30 minutes.

According to a report from WRIC out of Petersburg, Virginia, future openings include LeConte Lodge and Cades Cove Riding Stables on May 18, and Cades Cove Campstore and Smokemont Riding Stables on May 23.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park Starts Phase One of Re-Opening, Recently Opened Campsite After 9 Years

Great Smoky Mountain National Park recently re-opened a campground that they closed for the past nine years. On Oct. 15, the National Park opened Look Rock Campground, a 69-site area that’s ideal for fall camping. The campsite will be open until Nov. 13.

“Since the new section of the Foothills Parkway opened in 2018, this area of the park has become a stand-alone destination, and I’m pleased that after a long but steady effort, we are able to once again provide a camping opportunity along one of the most scenic drives in the park,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash in a statement.

Look Rock Campground and Picnic Area closed in 2013 after the water utility systems failed. In 2019, the park received funding to install a handicap-accessible vault toilet. They then opened the picnic area in a limited capacity. Now, the park has finally received funding to replace the water system and reopen the campground.

Crews renovated and rehabilitated the campground, with 10 campsites redesigned to accommodate larger RVs. These 10 are the first campsites at Look Rock to offer electric and water hookups for RVs.

The Friends of the Smokies group received a total of $4.7 million in donations, campground fees, and federal funds to rehabilitate the campground. “A $4 million contract was executed for the completion of the water line replacement, repaving, and groundwork,” said National Park officials in a statement. “Park crews installed picnic tables and rehabilitated individual sites, which included the installation of 68 campsite signposts that were constructed and hand-painted by a Volunteer in the park.”

Look Rock Campground sits at nearly 3,000 feet elevation between Walland, Tennessee, and Chilhowee Lake. It’s the perfect, scenic destination for cozy fall camping, but it’s only open until mid-November.