Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced its spring opening schedule for Park facilities and availability of services. Campgrounds and secondary roads will open starting on Friday, March 9. The schedule follows:
Roads – The secondary roads that are set to open on March 9 include: Little Greenbrier, Rich Mountain, Straight Fork/Round Bottom, Forge Creek, Parson Branch, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. As a result of the mild winter, Clingmans Dome Road is set to open on Friday March 16. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads will open on May 11.
Operating Hours for Visitor Centers – The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours through March are as follows: Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Cades Cove Visitor Center, near Townsend, TN, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC, hours will be 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Recreation.gov provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, all across the U.S. The park’s developed campgrounds of Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system for at least a portion of their seasons. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance. To make reservations at the five campgrounds, and all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters, visitors can go to www.Recreation.gov or, alternatively, book reservations by calling 877-444-6777.
Campgrounds open on a staggered basis starting March 9. (See the following schedule for exact dates.) For the five campgrounds on Recreation.gov, reservations are required at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15-October 31 (for other dates the three campgrounds are first come, first serve); Cataloochee Campground–all sites must be reserved throughout its season; and Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-served campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites during its season. Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site/night.
Campers have an opportunity to camp in “generator free” campsites at three campgrounds: Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds. The generator-free loop sections of these campgrounds are reservable through Recreation.gov.
Group Camping will be available at seven campgrounds (see schedule for opening dates) and reservations must be made through Recreation.gov. Group camping is available at Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. The cost for group camping ranges from $26 to $65 per site/night.
Horse Camps at Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Round Bottom, and Towstring will open April 1 and reservations are only available through Recreation.gov. The horse site fees are $20 at all horse camps except for Big Creek where it is $25.
Picnic Areas – There are 10 first-come, first-serve picnic areas. Open all year are Cades Cove, Greenbrier, Deep Creek, and Metcalf Bottoms. Chimneys Picnic Area will be the first to open on March 15 while Big Creek, Collins Creek, and Cosby Picnic Areas will open shortly after on April 1. Heintooga and Look Rock are scheduled to open on May 11. The Park’s largest picnic pavilion at Twin Creeks opens on April 1 and reservations are required through Recreation.gov only. Twin Creeks fees range from $35-$75 depending on the number of people. In addition, picnickers can reserve five other picnic pavilions on Recreation.gov. They are located at Collins Creek, Cosby, Deep Creek, Metcalf Bottoms, and Greenbrier picnic areas. The cost is $20, except at Greenbrier where it is $10.
Horseback Riding – The opening dates for the three horseback concessions located on the Tennessee side of the Park are: Smoky Mountain Riding Stable on March 3; Sugarlands Riding Stable on March 9; and Cades Cove is scheduled on March 10. In addition to horseback rides which cost $30 per horse per rider for one-hour rides, Cades Cove Riding Stable will offer their customary carriage rides and hay rides, and wheelchair accessible carriage and hay rides. The Smokemont Riding Stable in North Carolina will open March 24 and, in addition to guided horseback rides, will provide visitors with a chance to experience a horse-drawn wagon ride along the route of the historic Oconaluftee Turnpike.
LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, will open on March 19. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865/429-5704, fax 865/774-0045 or e:mail email@example.com. One night at the lodge costs $121 per adult and $85 for children 10 and under (tax not included). The price includes two meals–dinner and breakfast. Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag or dining room lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge. Reservations are required for the dining room lunch.
Campground Concessions – The Cades Cove Campground Store will open March 3. The store provides groceries, camping supplies, firewood, ice, vending, limited food service, souvenirs, and bike rentals. The Cades Cove Store has multi-speed comfort or mountain bikes available for rent, in addition to single speed cruisers. The Elkmont Campground concession will open March 9. The concession provides firewood, ice, limited camper convenience items, and vending of soft drinks, newspapers, and snacks.