At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

Smokies to partially reopen May 9

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to reopen many of its roads and trails beginning Saturday, May 9. 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.

The reopening follows guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local public health authorities. Nationwide, the National Park Service is using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. 

“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 Smokies 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 will examine each facility and service to ensure operations comply with current public health guidance, and these operations will be regularly monitored. Managers will also continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health to ensure public and employee spaces are safe and clean. 

These efforts will be supported by the implementation of new safety measures, including disinfectant fogging operations for restrooms and public buildings, installation of Plexiglas shields at visitor centers, personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers, new safety protocols for emergency services staff and reduced group size limits. 

A return to full operations will occur in phases, and services may be limited. Between May and October, the park typically has more than 1 million visitors each month who travel from across the country. In light of the current crisis, it’s more important than ever for the public to avoid crowding, avoid high-risk activities, practice Leave No Trace principles and follow local health orders when visiting the park. Park managers will monitor the situation to ensure that visitor adhere to CDC guidance and take any additional steps necessary to protect the health of visitors, volunteers and employees. 

Updates will be posted at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm, and park rangers are available to answer questions during business hours at 828.506.8629 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Go to top