GSMNP Trails to reopen after Chimney Tops wildfire

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - Two trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are set to reopen, nearly two years after they were damaged in the deadly Chimney Tops wildfires, and subsequently shut down.

Officials announced that Bull Head Trail and Sugarland Mountain Trail were set to reopen Friday, October 26. Both trails are visitor favorites that take hikers from the highest peaks in the park to the lower elevations, offering fantastic opportunities to enjoy the fall colors and incredible views.

The trails were closed in November 2016 after deadly wildfires, fueled by epic wind, caused massive damage to the forest. The Chimney Tops 2 fire killed 14 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in the Sevier County area.

Park trail crews spent several weeks in 2018 repairing more than 500 feet of trail tread, cutting 758 downed trees, removing more than 20 large rootballs and boulders, and repairing and replacing 53 trail drainage structures.

“The trail crews accomplished an amazing amount of work to safely repair and reopen these trails under very challenging conditions,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are excited to offer this opportunity to hikers, but also want to remind them to stay alert for trail hazards as they pass through the burned areas.”

Hikers will notice changes to both trails that now lead through areas of the park that burned at a high intensity, causing the entire tree canopy in some areas to completely disappear. Visitors were warned to watch for loose rocks, falling trees and limbs, and avoid the areas altogether after strong wind or rain.

The Friends of the Smokies donated $195,000 to pay for trail repairs.