Smokies trails finally reopen two years after EF4 tornado

12:01 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
  • Damage to Beard Cane Trail after April 2011 tornado. Courtesy: GSMNP
  • Damage to Abrams Falls Trail after April 2011 tornado. Courtesy: GSMNP
  • Repaired Abrams Falls Trail after April 2011 tornado. Courtesy: GSMNP
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It's taken two years of hard work, but two trails that were nearly destroyed by an EF4 tornado are finally reopened in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In April 2011, that giant storm downed thousands of trees in the western end of the park, making 50 miles of trails impassable, including Ace Gap Trail, Beard Cane Trail, Hatcher Mountain Trail, Little Bottoms Trail, Rabbit Creek Trail, Hannah Mountain Trail, Cooper Road Trail, Cane Creek Trail, Gold Mine Trail, and Abrams Falls Trail.

Most of those trails have been rehabilitated and reopened since then, and finally, you can add Beard Cane and Hatcher Mountain Trails to that list.

After the storm, 24 trail crew employees from the Smokies, along with additional workers from Canyonlands National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park worked to clear and rebuild those trails."

This was some of the most challenging work I have ever faced. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such hardworking professionals and the best trail crew in the NPS," said Smokies Trail Crew Supervisor Tobias Miller. "It was clear from the first day after I crawled through only three of the damaged trails that we were in for some serious challenges to reopen these trails."

In addition to clearing trees on these trails, workers had to rebuild the trail tread surface and build mulitple retaining walls where the trail had been completely destroyed after uprooted trees fell downslope with sections of the trail attached.

All trails are now reopened for public use along with Backcountry Campsite 3. However, Backcountry Campsite 11 will remain closed. The damage to this site was so great from the storm that this location is no longer suitable as a campsite.

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