Crews work on building a natural step about a mile into Chimney Tops trail. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- National Park Rangers and Volunteers are rebuilding the Chimney Tops Trail inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The reconstruction project has taken years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix what mother nature and humans have destroyed.
"We have 848 miles of trails in the park, and we've got 2 trail crews on both sides of the park, and their main focus is to keep those trails open," said Christine Hoyer, with the National Park Service. "Eventually if we let them go, these trails would get to where they were unsafe or impassable. So we're trying to keep that standard up."
Hoyer says more than 1,000 people hike the Chimney Tops Trail during a summer day. She says wear on the trail, along with run off from water has made it more dangerous for people to hike on.
3 days a week, rangers and volunteers hike miles into the trail to hand dig gullies for water to run, and steps for people to walk on, all by hand.
"We always try to make as little impact as possible but there's always an impact of doing work like this. and so it will re-grow and solidify and so over time people won't even be able to tell. They'll think mother nature did it," said Hoyer.
Chimney Tops Trail is closed Monday-Thursday for work and is open on weekends. Work on the trail is expected to pause for the winter on October 18th.
The Chimney Tops Trailhead is along Newfound Gap Road about 8 miles south of the Park's Gatlinburg, TN entrance. The work is expected to take two seasons to complete. The Park's Trails Forever Crew is funded through a partnership between the Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends are donating $121,000 this year to support the program.