The Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials closed all park areas, except the Foothills Parkway and the Spur, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 24.
Initially, officials said the closure would last for two weeks. As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb throughout the country, the park announced on Wednesday, April 1, that it will remain closed until further notice.
Park managers said they are prepared to act to reopen as quickly as conditions allow, but the park is likely to remain closed at least through April 30.
The park will notify the public when operations resume through its website and social media platforms.
"The park will continue to assess changing conditions in our region and work with local communities to extend or terminate closures, as appropriate to ensure the health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, partners, and local residents," according to a release.
All access to the park, including trails and roads, is temporarily closed to align with the efforts to Tennessee and North Carolina's executive orders encouraging people to eliminate close physical contact with others.
Despite closing visitor centers, campgrounds and more, more than 30,000 people entered the park in the week before it closed. There were large crowds at popular spots like Laurel Falls, Newfound Gap, and Cades Cove.
During the closure period, visitors can experience the park using digital tools including our social media platforms and website where near real-time views can be seen via park webcams at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.
Park rangers can still help answer questions via email or phone during business hours at (865) 436-1291, (828) 506-8620, or GRSM_Smokies_Information@nps.gov.
As businesses shut down and events cancel across East Tennessee, several people are wondering what they can do for fun instead. Camping out at the Great Smoky Mountains may not be an option.
Officials with the park said in a press release that campgrounds, picnic areas and restrooms will be closed starting Monday, March 23. They will stay closed until April 30, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Trails and roads are still accessible. The National Park Service urges people to follow guidelines from the Center for Disease Control when visiting the park. Groups should not exceed more than 10 people and everyone should distance themselves from each other by at least six feet, to prevent coronavirus from spreading.
They also encourage visitors to follow Leave No Trace principles by leaving no trash behind and practicing pack-in and pack-out principles, to keep the park safe and healthy.
Officials said they will continue to implement changes to the park as the coronavirus condition develops. They said they are working with authorities to monitor COVID-19 and will provide updates on the park online and on social media.