Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials closed Laurel Creek Road, as scheduled, on Sunday, January 5 through Saturday, February 29 to repair the Bote Mountain Tunnel. The seven-mile access road leading from the Townsend Wye to Cades Cove, is closed to all motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Trails remain open throughout the closure, although access to trailheads is limited due to the road closure. Trail access into the Cades Cove area requires at least a 14-mile, roundtrip hike to the Cades Cove Loop Road from any of the boundary trailheads. During the short days of the winter months, this leaves limited time to explore the Loop Road for most hikers.
The one-way, seven-mile Rich Mountain Road, seasonally closed in the winter, can be used by hikers only to walk in and out of the area. This roadway will also be utilized by park vehicles throughout the closure to access the Loop Road. Hikers should be prepared to encounter employee vehicles traveling in both directions along the roadway. Due to the increased employee traffic, cyclists and horseback riders are prohibited from using the narrow, gravel roadway during closure period.
The one-way, eight-mile Parson Branch Road, which has been closed to all public vehicle use since 2016, can be used by hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders to access Cades Cove throughout the closure by the public. Users should be prepared to encounter downed trees or park employee vehicles along this roadway as well.
The Laurel Creek Road closure, beginning just past Tremont Road, is necessary to allow equipment set-up for the repair of the internal drainage system in the walls and ceiling of the 121-foot long tunnel. Crews will enclose and heat the tunnel, allowing the temperature-sensitive repairs to be conducted during the winter months when visitation is lower. Intermittent single-lane closures will be necessary between March 1 and June 15 to complete the tunnel repairs and to re-pave the tunnel area.
The Cades Cove Campground, normally open during the winter months, is closed through March 5, 2020. To accommodate winter campers, Elkmont Campground will remain open year round along with Smokemont Campground in NC.
The Bote Mountain Tunnel, constructed in 1948, has not had any significant rehabilitation work since that time. Crews will replace nine drainage chases requiring track-mounted saws to cut through the concrete liner along the arc of the 18-foot high tunnel opening. Cracks throughout the tunnel would also be sealed and repaired. Without repairs, leaks will lead to compromised concrete walls and the development of ice hazards during the winter months.
For more information on road and trail closures, please visit the park website athttp://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm.For more information about road closures, please follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on twitter or visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm.