Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials celebrated the completion of a two-year trail rehabilitation project on Trillium Gap Trail on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The 6.7-mile Trillium Gap Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Grotto Falls and Mt. Le Conte. The trail was reopened a few days ahead of schedule following work completed by the park’s Trails Forever crew, American Conservation Experience Conservation Corps, and volunteers.
“Year after year, the Trails Forever crew transforms highly used, highly eroded trails into trails that will stand the test of time,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Their work exemplifies the mission of the National Park Service by protecting these special places for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The trail crew rehabilitated targeted segments along the trail to improve overall trail safety. They rehabilitated the tread surface, reduced trail braiding, and improved drainage systems to prevent further erosion. There were several areas along the trail where erosion and small landslides had damaged significant sections, making the trail difficult to follow. The crew installed 681 steps through steep corridors, constructed 224 square feet of retaining walls, dug 525-linear feet of drainage ditches, created 378-linear feet of elevated trail surfaces, installed 51 drainage features, and placed over 538 native stones along the trail to create a durable, sustainable trail corridor. Trail improvements have not only made the trail safer for visitors, but also for the LeConte Lodge llamas which use the trail weekly to haul supplies to the summit.
Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $2 million to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including Rainbow Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge Trail. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.
In 2021, the Trail Forever crew will begin a rehabilitation project on the popular Abrams Falls Trail among other critical trail work across the park on trails such as the Noah Bud Ogle Nature Trail, Oconaluftee River Trail, and Fighting Creek Nature Trail. Due to the rehabilitation process on Abrams Falls Trail, a full closure will be necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. The Abrams Falls Trail and associated parking areas will be closed May 10, 2021 through Nov. 10, 2021, excluding federal holidays, on Monday mornings at 7 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
For more information about the Trails Forever program, please visit https://home.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/supportyourpark/trails-forever-volunteer.htm.
– National Park Service release