One of the Smoky Mountain’s most visited trails expected to reopen soon
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - It’s one of the most visited trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Alum Cave Trail is a direct access trail to Mount LeConte where millions of people look to visit every year.
During February, the trail was closed during weekdays as crews work to replace a series of footbridges about 20 minutes from the trailhead on Newfound Gap Road.
A 20-minute hike just to get to work and get started on the bridgework, and it’s all manual labor.
“What they are using, as you can see a combination between those chainsaws but then also a series of saws,” said Jessica Snow with Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “A lot of the work right now making sure they can level it out and get that good contact point to have safe bridges for everyone to use.”
The old bridges were replaced about 15 years ago and had started to rot and become worn from all the use.
“This is one of our most popular trails in the park so it’s really crucial that we have these maintenance crews that ensure the safety for all of the people who can come out here and enjoy it,” said Snow.
Not only is all of the work done by hand, but it’s also done with materials found naturally in the park, like the red spruce found just feet away now creating this brand new bridge.
“The red spruce that they’re replacing these with came locally, in fact, you can look just around the area and you can see where they’ve cut them and move them into place,” said Snow.
Crews have battled snow, cold temperatures and high winds, but wanted this done when the park was slower and an all-day shut down was needed to make the journey safer for all.
“There’s no easy fix to get around it, they really needed that full closure so they could safely repair this they could be safe and make sure that the visitors were safe while they were doing this important road, so they can get everybody back out here and have full access to the trail again,” added Snow.
The work should be completed this week, and the trail should fully stay open starting next week.
Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other trails to the summit.
The Boulevard, Bull Head, Rainbow Falls, and Trillium Gap trails all lead to Mt. Le Conte, but hikers should plan carefully and check daily for weather-related road closures that may restrict access to trailheads.
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