One of the most popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reopened after a two-year rehabilitation project.
The 6.7-mile Trillium Gap Trail leads hikers to popular destinations Grotto Falls and Mt. Le Conte.
The work was completed by park's Trails Forever crew, American Conservation Experience Conservation Corps, and volunteers.
“Year after year, the Trails Forever crew transforms highly used, highly eroded trails into trails that will stand the test of time,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Their work exemplifies the mission of the National Park Service by protecting these special places for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The work focused on safety improvements, like upgrading the tread surface and improving drainage to prevent erosion.
There were several areas along the trail where erosion and small landslides had damaged significant sections, making the trail difficult to follow, according to a press release.
Workers installed 681 steps through steep corridors, constructed 224 square feet of retaining walls, dug 525-linear feet of drainage ditches, created 378-linear feet of elevated trail surfaces, installed 51 drainage features, and placed over 538 native stones along the trail to create a durable, sustainable path for visitors.
The improvements will be appreciated by human visitors, but also by the LeConte Lodge llamas and their guides, which use the trail weekly to haul supplies to the summit.
The trail was actually opened a few days ahead of schedule.
Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $2 million to support the program.
The work is focused on high use and high priority trails in the park including Rainbow Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge Trail.
The next big project for the Trails Forever program will be on the popular Abrams Falls Trail, which starts in Cades Cove. Because of the work that will need to be done, the trail will have to be closed during the week next summer, from May 10, 2021 through November 10, 2021.