TOWNSEND, Tenn. — If you enjoy seeing Cades Cove or Cataloochee in the snow, your opportunities may be limited this winter.
Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will shut down the main access roads to both popular areas for winter construction projects.
Laurel Creek Road, the seven-mile access road from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove will be closed to all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists, from January 3 through February 29. They'll also close the main road to the Cataloochee Valley, Cove Creek Road, from Nov. 1 to Feb. 29, though there is a secondary way to access it.
Cades Cove winter closure
The closure of Laurel Creek Road, which will start just past Tremont Road, is to repair the Bote Mountain Tunnel, which was built in 1948 and hasn't had any significant upgrades since then.
This is the only way for visitors to access the popular 11-mile loop, so Cades Cove will be off-limits for the weeks of the closure.
The Cades Cove campground will also be closed from Dec. 30 through March 5. The Elkmont and Smokemont campgrounds will remain open to accommodate winter campers.
Workers will do a lot of work on the 121-foot long Bote Mountain Tunnel during the closure. They will actually seal it off and heat the inside to complete the temperature-sensitive repairs that need to be done in the winter months when visitation is lower.
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Crews will replace nine drainage chases requiring track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel will also be sealed and repaired. Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months, according to the press release.
While the park hopes the bulk of the work will be completed in time for the road to reopen on Feb. 29, crews still won't be finished. Some intermittent single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15 to complete the tunnel repairs and to re-pave.
Cataloochee winter closure
Cove Creek Road, the main access road to Cataloochee, will close so crews from the North Carolina Department of Transportation can make repairs on a slide just outside the park along the county road.
The Cataloochee area will remain accessible along old Highway 284 which is a narrow, winding gravel road leading from the Big Creek area of the park into Cataloochee Valley. However, this road may be closed at any time due to snow, ice, or downed trees. This route is not recommended for low clearance vehicles or trailers.
The Cataloochee Campground is expected to reopen for the 2020 season by March 26.
For more information about road closures, please follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on twitter or visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm.