GSMNP announces spring opening schedule
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the spring opening schedule for park facilities for the 2014 season. Campgrounds and secondary roads will begin opening Friday, March 7. The schedule follows:
Secondary roads are scheduled to open as follows: Forge Creek Road will open March 7; Clingmans Dome Road will open April 1; Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open April 4; Parson Branch, Rich Mountain Road, Roaring Fork Nature Trail, and Little Greenbrier will open April 11; Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain roads will open May 23.
Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for bicycle use only on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. from May 7 through September 24.
The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours through March are as follows: Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, Tennessee, 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours are extended for each location as the season progresses. Clingmans Dome Visitor Contact Station will open April 1.
The backcountry office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Backcountry reservations and permits can be obtained online at www.smokiespermits.nps.gov or by calling 436-1297.
Recreation.gov provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, all across the U.S. The park’s developed campgrounds of Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system for at least a portion of their seasons. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance. To make reservations at the five campgrounds, and all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters, visitors can go to www.recreation.gov or, alternatively, book reservations by calling 877-444-6777.
Campgrounds will open on a staggered schedule starting March 14. Reservations are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15 to October 31 (for other dates, the three campgrounds are first come, first serve). Advance reservations are required at Cataloochee Campground throughout the entire. Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-served campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites during its season. Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site per night.
Campers have an opportunity to camp in “generator free” campsites at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. The generator-free loop sections of these campgrounds are reservable through Recreation.gov.
Group camping will be available at seven campgrounds and reservations must be made through Recreation.gov. Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. The cost for group camping ranges from $26 to $65 per site per night.
Horse camps at Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Tow String will open April 4. Anthony Creek will open on April 1 and Big Creek on April 11. Reservations are only available through Recreation.gov. The horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.
Picnic areas at Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, and Metcalf Bottoms picnic areas are open year round. Chimneys picnic area will open on March 15 and Collins Creek picnic area will open on April 4. Big Creek and Cosby picnic areas will open shortly after on April 11. Heintooga picnic area will open on May 23. The opening of Look Rock picnic area is yet to be determined.
The park’s largest picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservations are required through www.recreation.gov. Twin Creeks’ fees range from $35-$75 depending on the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions on Recreation.gov. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas. The cost is $20, except at Greenbrier where it is $10.
The opening dates for the three horseback concessions located on the Tennessee side of the Park are: Smoky Mountain Riding Stable on March 7; Sugarlands Riding Stable on March 7; and Cades Cove on March 8. In addition to horseback rides, Cades Cove Riding Stable will offer their customary carriage rides and hay rides that are wheelchair accessible. The Smokemont Riding Stable in North Carolina will open March 22 providing guided horseback rides along with horse-drawn wagon rides along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike.
The Cades Cove Campground Store has been open since March 2. The store provides groceries, camping supplies, firewood, ice, vending, limited food service, souvenirs, and bike rentals. The Cades Cove Store has multi-speed comfort bikes, single speed cruisers, and electric assist bikes for rent. The Elkmont Campground concession opened on March 14. The concession provides firewood, ice, limited camper convenience items, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks.
For more information on park events, visit the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/events.htm.