Unfortunately, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced recently that three major campgrounds will remain closed this year due to budget cuts by the federal government.
Not only that, park officials reported that one horse camp and two picnic areas will not open as well. Other facilities will open later than normal, park officials say. The delayed openings are a direct result of staffing and hiring limitations that impacted the park’s ability to conduct preseason preparation work on its facilities, park officials said in a release Tuesday.
Facilities to remain closed in 2013 include the Look Rock Campground and Picnic Area and the Abrams Creek Campground in Tennessee, and the Balsam Mountain Campground and Picnic Area (including the associated Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads) and the Tow String Horse Camp in North Carolina.
Under the renewed schedule, the park’s plans for facility and area openings are:
Park Road Openings – Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open April 1; Parsons Branch and Rich Mountain Road will both open on April 5; Roaring Fork Nature Trail and Little Greenbrier are set to open April 1. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads will be closed for the season.
Clingmans Dome Road is open, but will officially open for the summer season on March 29.
Visitor Center Hours – The three visitor centers are open daily and the operating hours 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 a.m.-5 p.m.
Backcountry Office – The Backcountry Office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Backcountry reservations and permits can be obtained online at www.smokiespermits.nps.gov or by calling 865-436-1297.
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.
Camping – Starting April 12, all Smoky Mountain campgrounds will open on a staggered schedule. For the five campgrounds on Recreation.gov, reservations are required at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15-October 31; at Cataloochee Campground sites must be reserved; and Cosby Campground, there is a limited number of reserved sites available. Camping fees range from $14 to $23 per site/night.
Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont campgrounds do provide campers with an opportunity to camp in “generator free” campsites. These sections can be reserved through Recreation.gov. Group Camping will be available through the website 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, Cataloochee, and Round Bottom will open April 1 and at Big Creek on April 12. Tow Sting will be closed for the season. 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.
Balsam Mountain – Closed for the Season
Big Creek – $14/site, Opens April 12
Cataloochee – $20/site
Deep Creek – $17/site, Opens April 12
Smokemont – $17/site off-season, $20 mid-May-October 31
Abrams Creek – Closed for the Season
Cades Cove – $17/site off-season, $20 mid-May-October 31
Cosby – $14/site, Opens April 12
Elkmont – $17/site off-season, $20 mid-May-October 31
Look Rock – Closed for the Season