Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials removed the ban on backcountry campfires effective Tuesday, October 22. Backcountry campfires have been banned since September 26. Recent rains and cooler temperatures over the last couple of weeks have consistently lowered drought severity ratings and fire danger throughout the park leading to this management decision.
Park officials will continue to monitor conditions throughout the fall season and will implement future restrictions as needed. While drought severity ratings have lessened, much of the park is still within the moderate drought (D1) category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Visitors are reminded that all fires must be confined to designated campfire rings and grills. Users should take precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires by extinguishing fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills.
Backpackers should be aware that drought conditions also affect the availability of water at springs at backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. At some locations where there is a running spring, it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle. Many of the springs in the higher elevations are running significantly slower than normal at this time and the following backcountry campsites are currently known to be without water: 5, 13, 16, 26, Russel Field Shelter, and Mollies Ridge Shelter. Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.
For more information about regional drought conditions, please visit https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu. For more information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm or call the backcountry office (865) 436-1297.
– National Park Service release