Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary ban on campfires in the park’s backcountry effective immediately. Due to extremely dry weather conditions and the amount of fresh leaf litter on the ground, the potential for escaped fires to occur in the backcountry has dramatically increased. The fire restriction will be in effect until further notice
The fire ban only applies to campers utilizing the park’s 100+ backcountry sites and shelters. It does not affect campers at the park’s 9 frontcountry (developed) campgrounds or picnickers using fire grills at picnic areas. Fires at developed areas must be confined to designated fire rings and grills. All visitors are asked to take certain precautions to help reduce the risk of wildfires. This includes extinguishing frontcountry fires by mixing water with embers in fire rings and grills. Use of backpacking stoves is still permitted at backcountry campsites.
“With the current drought conditions, it is imperative that we reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires during this period of extreme fire danger,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park has not banned backcountry campfires since 2007, but these unusually dry conditions warrant the restriction.”
Backpackers should be aware that this situation affects the availability of water at springs at backcountry campsites and shelters throughout the park. At some locations where there is a running spring, it can take more than five minutes to fill a quart-sized bottle. The following backcountry campsites are currently known to be without water: 5, 6, 16, 26, 113, Mollies Ridge Shelter, Russell Field Shelter, Spence Field Shelter, Silers Bald Shelter, Double Spring Gap Shelter, and Pecks Corner Shelter. Other campsites may be without water as the drought conditions continue. Backpackers are encouraged to carefully consider their itinerary and carry extra water for those sites that are not located along major water sources.
For more information about backcountry trip planning, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm or call the backcountry office at 865-436-1297.
TetonHikingTrails.com The Smoky Mountain Hiker is the author of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog and the online trail guide, HikingintheSmokys.com