Rainbow Falls Trail is open; rehabilitation work complete!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials celebrated the completion of a two-year trail rehabilitation project on Rainbow Falls Trail on Wednesday, November 14. The six-mile Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt. Le Conte. The trail was reopened, on schedule, following work completed by the park trail crew, American Conservation Experience youth crews, and volunteers.
The park trail crew rehabilitated targeted segments along the trail to improve visitor safety, stabilize eroding trail sections, and repair trail tread damaged by high winds and fire during the November 2016 wildfires. The crew installed over 350 steps through steep, narrow corridors, created nearly 600 feet of elevated trail surfaces, installed nearly 400 drainage elements, and placed over 1,000 native stones along the trail to create a durable, sustainable trail corridor. The much-needed rehabilitation also eliminated numerous, visitor-created side trails totaling over one mile in length that had resulted in eroded, off-trail paths creating confusion for hikers.
“The craftsmanship exhibited by the park trail crew is extraordinary,” said Deputy Superintendent Clay Jordan. “They create durable, functional trail corridors that support the high-volume hiker use of the Smokies in a manner that also reflects and protects the natural landscape.”
Numerous individuals partnered with the park trail crew to aid in rehabilitation efforts. Over the course of the two-year project, 44 American Conservation Experience youth interns contributed over 41,360 hours of service and 162 Volunteers contributed 1,576 hours of service.
Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,500,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including the recently restored Rainbow Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge Trail. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.
In 2019, the Trail Forever crew will begin a 2-year rehabilitation project on the popular Trillium Gap Trail among other critical trail work across the park on trails such as the Deep Creek Trail, Rough Fork Trail, Smokemont Trail, and Noah Bud Ogle Trail. Due to the rehabilitation process on Trillium Gap Trail, a full closure will be necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. The Trillium Gap Trail and associated parking area (Roaring Fork trailhead, NOT Cherokee Orchard) will be closed May 6, 2019 through November 14, 2019, excluding federal holidays, on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.