Two hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains have been reopened after being closed since 2011 due to hurricane damage, according to the Associated Press.
The National Park Service said that the park's trail crew recently completed rehabilitation work on Beard Cane and Hatcher Mountain Trails, both of which are in the west end of the 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, have been repaired. They were the final trails to be reopened out of 10 that had been damaged.
An F-4 tornado knocked down thousands of trees along the hiking trails near Cades Cove in April 2011, forcing the park to close 50 miles of trails. A campsite, Backcountry Site 11, has been permanently closed because the damage left it unsuitable for use.
Park crews had to rebuild the trail tread surface and construct multiple retaining walls where the trail had been completely destroyed by the powerful storm after uprooted trees fell downslope with sections of the trail still attached.
The initial closings included 50 miles of trails, among them Ace Gap Trail, Beard Cane Trail, Hatcher Mountain Trail, Little Bottoms Trail, Rabbit Creek Trail, Hannah Mountain Trail, Cooper Road Trail, Cane Creek Trail, Gold Mine Trail and Abrams Falls Trail. Twenty-four trail crew employees from the park responded to the incident, as well as trail crews from other national parks that assisted, including crews from Canyonlands National Park, Joshua Tree National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.
There was such a large amount of repair work to be done on the trails, in addition to maintaining the 800 miles of trail that was not damaged, that the Smokies Trail Crew Supervisor, Tobias Miller, reached out to fellow national park crews for aid.
"This was some of the most challenging work I have ever faced," Miller said. "I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such hardworking professionals and the best trail crew in the NPS.
"It was clear from the first day, after I crawled through only three of the damaged trails, that we were in for some serious challenges to reopen these trails."