Hiking

Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park broadcasts a 2021 vehicle-free day plan at Cades Cove

Posted by Jeff on Feb 11, 2021 10:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments | Last change: February 11, 2021

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are extending a pilot project in Cades Cove by continuing vehicle-free access to Cades Cove Loop Road on Wednesdays from May 5 to September 1, 2021. Park managers implemented this weekly, full-day opportunity in 2020 in an attempt to improve the visitor experience and reduce the congestion associated with vehicle-free mornings previously offered until 10:00 on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The park received 47 comments by mail, email, phone, and comment cards on the vehicle-free daytime pilot. More than 60% of these comments were extremely positive. However, some campers were still affected by early morning parking congestion and some visitors were disappointed with the lack of vehicle access on Wednesday. Overall, the all-day opportunity provided a more enjoyable and safer experience for the nearly 30,000 cyclists and pedestrians participating in the vehicle-free daytime opportunities. During the 2020 season, compared to the 2019 season, 25% more pedestrians and cyclists took part in vehicle-free access periods per week, with an average of 1,800 participants per Wednesday.

Park managers remain concerned about parking congestion and will monitor usage levels, parking availability, visitor experience and congestion during the second year of the pilot. According to information from 2020, the parking spaces were full for 30% of the observation period and the shoulders at the roadside along Laurel Creek Road were used for parking during 60% of the observation period. Staff and volunteers will be making some driveway changes this season to ease pressure on campground parking and picnic areas, and to eliminate roadside parking along Laurel Creek Road. Roadside parking damages the shoulders and creates unsafe conditions for visitors walking from their car to their destination.

For more information on congestion monitoring in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/management/ves.htm.

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