Great Smoky Mountains National Park lifts campfire ban

(Courtesy: WATE)
(Courtesy: WATE)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – After a ban on campfires and open grills in the backcountry since Nov. 1, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is lifting their ban on campfires.

Beginning Friday, visitors can have campfires and use grills at established front country and backcountry campsites and picnic areas. Rangers said recent rains, along with the containment of the Chimeny Tops 2 Fire, led park officials to consider lifting the fire ban.

“With the fire containment and recent wet, moist conditions, we are relieved that our winter campers can once again have warming fires which can be critical when camping in single digits,” said Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “We remind hikers and campers to dress in layers and to be prepared for changing weather at all elevations.”

The park has received between seven and 10 inches of rain since Nov. 28, which has helped relieve dry conditions across the park. Overall, rainfall is still down approximately 16 inches or 31 percent for this year at the park’s headquarters, making it one of the driest years in park history.

The park said crews are continuing to clear and assess trails throughout the burned area. The following areas reopened Friday: Cherokee Orchard Road, Twin Creeks Trail, Noah Bud Ogle Nature Trail, Trillium Gap Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, Baskins Creek Trail, Grapeyard Ridge Trail, and Old Sugarlands Trail.

Hikers are reminded to stay on established trails and to be cautious of overhead limbs and trail hazards throughout the area including loose rocks, falling trees, flooding, and debris flows. They should be alert and avoid hiking through the areas during high winds.

The following trails remain closed: Chimney Tops Trail, Road Prong Trail, Sugarlands Mountain Trail, Bullhead Trail, Rough Creek Trail, Cove Mountain Trail, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, and Sugarlands Riding Stables concession trails.

For updated information on backcountry closures, visit the Great Smoky Mountain National park’s website or call the backcountry office at 865-436-1297.

Click here for continuing coverage of the Sevier County wildfire.