Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopens after deadly Chimney Tops 2 Fire

(FILE) Smoke surrounds a home as seen from aboard a National Guard helicopter near Gatlinburg, Tenn., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Thousands of people have fled deadly wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and a resort in the Great Smoky Mountains. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open.

The park reopened to the public Friday, Dec. 9, in conjunction with the reopening of Gatlinburg. Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road and several visitor areas have been closed since the evening of Nov. 28 because of the Chimney Tops 2 wildfire.

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"The past 11 days have been the most challenging and emotional days our community has likely ever had to endure," Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a news release. "The amount of love, strength and support offered to our community has been inspirational not only to us, but also to those watching from across the world. Our community has shone brightly in the midst of this disaster and proven that we are truly mountain tough."

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Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, the Gatlinburg Bypass and the Spur reopened at 7 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9. Park visitor centers at Sugarlands, Oconaluftee and Cades Cove resumed their regularly scheduled operating hours. Cherokee Orchard Road will remain closed.

The following trails are closed because of wind or fire damage: Chimney Tops Trail, Road Prong Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail from Mount Collins Shelter to Little River Road, Huskey Gap Trail, Rough Creek Trail, Old Sugarlands Trail, Twin Creeks Trail, Baskins Creek Trail, Bull Head Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, Trillium Gap Trail, Grapeyard Ridge Trail from Campsite 32 to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlinburg Trail, Cove Mountain Trail, Sugarland Valley Nature Trail, Noah Bud Ogle Nature Trail, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, the Sugarlands Horse Concession trails, and the quiet walkways along Newfound Gap Road.

"The safety of our visitors is our primary concern and we ask that everyone explore only areas of the park that remain open and abide by trail closures," the National Park Service said in a news release.

Visitors are required to remain in their vehicles when passing through the burned areas and should not enter any burned areas by foot. Visitors are reminded that though the area has received heavy rains in recent days, firefighters are still actively establishing containment lines to ensure the fire is fully extinguished.

Motorists are reminded to carefully travel along the roadways and to allow crews safe work space. Public information officers will be on site near the Gatlinburg entrance of the park and at overlooks along Newfound Gap Road to answer questions about the fire.

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Several upcoming park events have been postponed or canceled. The Festival of Christmas Past, scheduled for Dec. 10, has been canceled. The Hike 100 Centennial Challenge celebration, scheduled for Dec. 9 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, has been postponed. The Holiday Homecoming at the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm will take place as planned Dec. 17. Details about these events will be released to the public as soon as they become available.

For more information on temporary road and trail closures, please visit the park website.

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