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Alum Cave Trail in Great Smoky Mountains Park will close temporarily for bridge repairs

Asheville Citizen Times logo Asheville Citizen Times 1/21/2021 Karen Chávez, Asheville Citizen Times

One of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will temporarily close for repairs.

The Alum Cave Trail and parking lots will close weekdays during February to replace two foot-log bridges, near the Arch Rock area, according to a park news statement.

The trail leads to the iconic, 6,593-foot-high Mount Le Conte summit, and to Mount Le Conte Lodge, which is closed over the winter.

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The area will be closed weekly Monday through Thursday from Feb. 8-25. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as well as President’s Day, Feb. 15.   

Related: Will bathrooms, more parking and camping restrictions come to Max Patch this year?

Alum Cave Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, and these foot-log bridges provide safe crossings over the boulder-strewn river.

According to the park's statement, the bridges have suffered significant decay through heavy foot traffic and weather since the last trail rehabilitation in 2016. In order to efficiently replace the foot-log bridges along the narrow trail corridor, a full closure is necessary for the safety of the crew and visitors.

a close up of a rock wall: Great Smoky Mountains National Park will close the Alum Cave Trail weekdays during February to replace log bridges, like this one pictured near Arch Rock. © Courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park will close the Alum Cave Trail weekdays during February to replace log bridges, like this one pictured near Arch Rock.

Related: Solutions to Great Smoky Mountains overcrowding, resource damage: fees, shuttles, apps?

The Smokies – the most visited national park in the country – had a record-breaking 12.5 million visitors in 2019. Even with coronavirus-related closures for six weeks last spring, the park saw huge crowds last year, leading to less than desirable visitor experiences, said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.

Preliminary reports show the park had about 12.1 million visitors in 2020, only a 3% decline, despite the COVID-19 safety closures.

a car is lined up on the side of a road: Cars overflow at the Alum Cave trailhead in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. © Courtesy Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cars overflow at the Alum Cave trailhead in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Related: Great Smoky Mountains trail to Mount Le Conte summit reopens after major facelift

Hikers can still reach Mount Le Conte and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other trails to the summit: The Boulevard, Bull Head, Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap trails. But hikers should plan carefully and check daily for weather-related road closures that may restrict access to trailheads. 

For more information about hiking in the park, visit the Smokies website at or call the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.  

Karen Chávez is an award-winning outdoors and environment reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times and USA TODAY Network. She is the author of "Best Hikes with Dogs: North Carolina," and is a former National Park Service ranger.

Reach me: KChavez@CitizenTimes.com or on Twitter @KarenChavezACT

Read more outdoors newswww.citizentimes.com/outdoors

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Alum Cave Trail in Great Smoky Mountains Park will close temporarily for bridge repairs

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