Rangers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have a new warning for hikers on the Chimney Tops trail who may be ignoring posted signs about the dangers along the trail that burned in the wildfires last fall.
Most of the trail re-opened earlier this month, but one section remains closed indefinitely due to concerns about safety.
Before the trail reopened, park officials installed a sign warning there is no access to the pinnacles on top. November's wildfires left the summit too unstable for visitors.
The trail is now back open up to about a quarter-mile from the top.
A gate with a large, orange sign warns hikers not to go beyond that point.
And they say if people don't take that to heart, they may have to close the entire trail once again.
"The closure is a legal closure. Our park law enforcement rangers had the authority and discretion to issue a verbal warning to someone that has gone beyond the closure or a citation," park spokesperson Dana Soehn said.
Yet hikers are climbing around the gate and up to the pinnacles.
Rangers are concerned by the additional damage being done to the shattered ground, which they hope might someday recover enough to re-open.
"But that's gonna need time. And so the closure is in place to keep people safe ultimately, and we need the publics help to make that happen," Soehn said.
While the park service knows people are ducking the gate, they can't afford to stop it.
"It really involves people coming together and wanting to help us keep the closure respected. Because with a park as busy as the Smokies we can dedicate a ranger up there to enforce it each day," Soehn said.
They hope even unsupervised, people will enjoy the view of chimneys from behind the gate, because if something happens up there, it could force them to limit trail access again.
"If we have people continuing to go beyond the closure, if we were to have a serious accident again that puts them at risk and also our employees that go to assist … we will certainly have to look at a full closure," Soehn said.
Park officials said no one has been formally ticketed, though there have been warnings.
If caught beyond the gate, rule breakers could face a $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail.