Celebrating Chimney Tops Trail

Chimney Tops Trail
Chimney Tops Trail

I remember climbing Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The two-mile trail was full of uneven rocks, roots and gaps.

Now, thanks to the Trails Forever program funded by Friends of the Smokies, the trail is perfect. Yes, it’s still steep – nothing that can be done about that – but the highly skilled Trails Forever crew has put in steps,  drainage ditches and removed hazard trees.

Eric Wood, one of the trail crew leaders, showed us some “before” pictures of the trail. See the bottom of this post for the statistics on the trail.


Yesterday, I joined a celebration to recognize the trail crew, donors, and volunteers, park partners.

Superintendent Cassius Cash thanked everyone for their work. And a bunch of us climbed to the top of Chimney Tops. The staircases were amazing. In fact, one run of over 360 steps is dubbed, “the Stairway to Heaven”. This trail will last, yes, forever.

Superintendent Cash, trail crew leaders and FOTS leaders
Superintendent Cash, trail crew leaders and FOTS leaders

But at the top of the trail, the rock climb was still there. The park crew was not going to blast the mountain and put in a viewing platform. I dropped my pack and started climbing the rocks. At some point, I dropped my poles and went on all fours, or five (my behind) or, seven (my knees, as well). It was not a pretty sight. But I made it to the top.


On top of Chimney Tops with Anna Lee
On top of Chimney Tops with Anna Lee

Here I am with Anna Lee Zanetti on top of Chimney Tops Trail. Anna Lee is the outreach associate for Friends of the Smokies. She and I lead monthly hikes for FOTS members.

She was here, climbing on a work day. This is part of her job. Now, how lucky can you get?


Thanks to all who contributed in time, money, sweat and effort to make Chimney Tops Trail last, well, forever.

For those who love numbers, here are some:

Chimney Tops Trail Reconstruction Highlights: 

• 367 rock steps constructed (each weighing ~ 300 lbs each)
• 291 locust log steps constructed (each weighing ~ 80 pounds each)
• 700 square feet of locust retaining walls constructed
• 820 linear feet of rock and locust turnpike constructed
• 1,600 linear feet of uphill drainage ditches created
• 40,000 cubic feet of rock crush fill (6 million pounds!) made on site by hand to harden trail tread and fill trail structures.
• 51,000 cubic feet of trail tread (7 1/2 million pounds!) moved along trail corridor to improve drainage.
• 53 hazard trees removed

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