Smokies Park invites public to #OptOutside after Thanksgiving Day

Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites visitors to join a park ranger for a guided hike on Friday, November 24, 2017 or a service opportunity on Saturday, November 25. Hikes will be offered near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Elkmont Campground, providing an outstanding opportunity for people of all ages to #OptOutside and enjoy the park.

Rangers and park volunteers will help visitors discover special cultural and natural resources along the hikes. Visitors may also choose to hike on their own and can come to any of the park’s visitor centers throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to receive information about hiking options including several short nature trails that are perfect for children.

The park has over 800 miles of trails to explore throughout the year with every season offering its own special rewards. During late fall and winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas revealing stone walls, chimneys, and foundations. These reminders of past communities allow hikers to discover a glimpse of history along park trails.

The 4.2-mile round trip hike on the Mingus Creek Trail is rated moderate but does have several steep sections near the cemeteries. The trail parallels Mingus Creek with several log foot bridges along the way. Meet in the Mingus Mill parking area, less than a mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, along Newfound Gap Road, at 10:00 a.m. on Friday.

Cucumber Gap near Elkmont is an easy, 4.8-mile round trip hike follows the river through a beautiful, cove hardwood forest. Expect 3-4 hours total for the hike. One river crossing will be required. Meet at the Little River trailhead at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, 7 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont.

Help clean fire pits and perform other maintenance tasks around the Elkmont Campground to help care for one of the park’s busiest campgrounds. It is particularly important to keep the area free of trash and food scraps to help protect wildlife. Meet at the Elkmont Campground Office at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, 7 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center in Elkmont.

For more information, call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at 828-497-1904, the Sugarlands Visitor Center at 865-436-1291, or the Volunteer Office at 865-436-1266.


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