When Closed means Closed

Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopened about a month ago. The trail had been closed since Thanksgiving, 2016 because of wildfire originally set by two teenage boys. The fire moved from the top of Chimney Tops Trail into populated areas and caused a great deal of damage.

But it seems like most of the trail wasn’t affected, so the park decided to build a platform at the new top of the trail and close off the original top. You can no longer scramble to the actual rocky top because of significant environmental damage and safety concerns. The fire destroyed so much of the vegetation at the top. There is severe erosion of rocks and soil, making for very steep slopes and drop offs.

But rumors are flying that some hikers feel it’s their right to ignore this closure and go around the gate and yellow tape. If this continues, the park may close the whole trail again. Oh no!! What part of closed don’t they understand?

So I decided to see the shortened trail, now only 1.75 miles, for myself? Today was a colorful autumn day, probably too warm for November – climate change is real.

Happy hikers at the platform

The trail was as perfect today as it had been after the Trails Forever Crew put in steps and water diversions. And just as steep. I met 24 people going up and too many to count going down.

Most understood what happened even “if they weren’t from around here” and were content to enjoy the view from the platform. I took plenty of pictures of happy people.

But there’s always a few who aren’t happy with restrictions and think they know better. A father with two adult children from the area wondered why the park had put in all those steps in the first place, why he couldn’t climb to the top, and was there always someone from the park here?

It was obvious that the family group was waiting for me to leave so they could try to get to the top of the rocks. I took their picture.

View of Chimney Tops

“There’s over 800 miles of trail in the park. Plenty of other challenges here.” But they weren’t going to explore other trails. You know the type – wearing  jeans, a cotton t-shirt, a sweatshirt around the waist and usually a scowl on their face. It seemed tempting to wait them out. But after 30 minutes on top and talking to everyone as they got to the platform, I started packing up.

They didn’t even wait for me to leave. They headed down to the closed area. More hikers came up as I started down the trail.

The trail is perfect, until the closure.

Go up there, stop at the platform, walk down to the Closed sign, if you’re curious and go back down – a perfect half-day hike.

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