Archived Outdoors

Laurel Falls closure planned for construction of trail, improvements

Visitors crowd the viewing area at Laurel Falls. NPS photo Visitors crowd the viewing area at Laurel Falls. NPS photo

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is moving ahead with significant changes to the Laurel Falls Trail intended to improve visitor experience at the popular site, with an 18-month closure to start next year.


The park completed an Environmental Assessment and approved the proposed Laurel Falls Trail Management Plan. Based on the EA analysis and public comments, the park decided to give park managers the option to resurface and widen the trail, build a new viewing platform, install new signs at the trailhead and along the trail, build a wider bridge at the upper falls, expand and approve designated parking spaces and offer a shuttle service and timed-entry parking reservation system for the trailhead.

Construction will start in 2024, and the park expects the trail to be closed for at least 18 months while this takes place. Parking tag revenue will fund some of the construction work near the trailhead and parking lots. A timeline for implementation of timed-entry parking reservations is not yet available.

In 2020, more than 375,000 visitors hiked the 1.3-mile trail, which leads to a scenic waterfall near the Gatlinburg entrance. To view documents associated with the project, visit

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