The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced that a two-year rehabilitation project will begin on the Ramsey Cascades Trail as part of the Trails Forever program supported by Friends of the Smokies.
The trail, Ramsey Prong Road and the Cosby area of the park will be closed to all traffic on Wednesday April 6 and Thursday April 7 to allow for the helicopter delivery of project supplies and materials. Park visitors with a backcountry permit will be allowed through the closure area, but should expect short delays when the helicopter passes overhead. Closures are necessary for the safety of hikers and to ensure flights are as fast as possible.
The helicopter operation will deliver approximately 35 loads to five different drop-off sites along the Ramsey Cascades Trail from a staging area near the Cosby picnic area. Shipments include lots of logs, tools and equipment for the project. The two-day helicopter operation is weather dependent and will be handled by Cherokee National Forest and Park staff.
The four-mile Ramsey Cascade Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park and is in the Greenbrier area. The trail provides the only access to the 100-foot Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. From May 2 through November 17, the trail and Ramsey Prong Road will be closed Monday through Thursday, excluding federal holidays, to safely conduct large-scale rehabilitation work. There will be no access to Ramsey Cascades during weekday closures.
The trail will be fully open Friday through Sunday each week.
The rehabilitation will improve overall trail safety and protect the park’s natural resources. Work will include repairing and re-grading the tread surface, improving existing drainage, adding new drainage, covering social pathways and removing tripping hazards such as roots and rocks. Trail structures such as retaining walls, stairs, water bars, and toll roads will be constructed, as needed, using locust logs and native stones found on site.
The Trails Forever Partnership Program was established between the Friends of the Smokies and the park to fund a permanent, highly trained trail crew that focuses on rehabilitating heavily traveled trails. In 2012, the Friends created an endowment, currently worth over $6 million, to support the program. The effort was made possible, in part, through the generosity of the Knoxville-based Aslan Foundation and in honor of avid hiker and Friends of the Smokies founding board member, Lindsay Young. To date, the Friends have contributed over $2 million to the program, which has resulted in the full rehabilitation of Abrams Falls, Trillium Gap, Rainbow Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops and Forney Ridge trails.
The program provides a mechanism for Conservation Corps team volunteers and interns to work alongside the trail team on these complex trail projects to help make lasting improvements to preserve trails for future generations. Volunteer work days are offered weekly from May to November. Prior registration is required. Contact Adam Monroe, Volunteer Coordinator for Trails and Facilities, at 828-497-1949 or [email protected] for details and to register.