When Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Monday that he would let the safer-at-home order expire on April 30, he made another announcement: starting April 24, most Tennessee State Parks would reopen for day-use.
PREVIOUS STORY: Most Tennessee State Parks to reopen April 24
However, some of Northeast Tennessee’s most popular trailheads will remain closed because they’re on National Forest Service land.
Many of these trailheads are on the Appalachian Trail and include:
- Roan Mountain and Carvers Gap – Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests
- Hampton and Dennis Cove Trailheads (Laurel Falls) – Cherokee National Forest
- Osborne Farm – Cherokee National Forest
- Max Patch – Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests
- Wayah Bald – Nantahala National Forest
- Cheoah Bald – Nantahala National Forest
- Lovers Leap – Pisgah National Forest
The closures follow guidance from the CDC on COVID-19.
Some hikers that Trail Team 11 have spoken to in the past don’t realize that Carvers Gap and popular spots on the Roan Mountain ridgeline such as Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge aren’t part of the state park system.
While the National Forest Service has not laid out any repercussions for those caught breaking the rules, managers noted that those getting outside needed to be careful.
“USDA Forest Service managers remind national forest visitors to recreate responsibly by avoiding gathering in groups of more than ten people and not engaging in high-risk activities, like rock climbing, that increase the chance of injury or distress. Also note that law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19.”
The Tennessee State Parks are also reminding visitors that just because they’re reopening, doesn’t mean visitors should run amok. They say social distancing will still be necessary, to not visit if you’re sick and bring hand sanitizer.
They also said that they could limit access to areas.
“If parks are full, consider coming back at a different time. Consider coming earlier in the day to allow for plenty of time if an area is full and you need to adjust your plans. Tennessee State Parks may limit access to certain parks or areas if capacity is reached.”
The Tennessee State Parks have made a social media push to make sure people understand the “do’s and don’t’s” of visiting. Trail Team 11 spotted this Instagram story they put together.
There’s also the question of which parks will reopen on April 24. While Governor Lee indicated that most parks will, but a full list had not been posted online when this article was published.
Regardless, Tennessee State Parks asked that visitors only go to parks near them and not travel long distances to enjoy the outdoors.
Note: You can find more information about Virginia State Parks here.