You are here

Ramsay Cascades Trail At Great Smoky Mountains National Park Temporarily Closed


The footbridge over Ramsey Prong was damaged by a fallen tree. NPS photo.

Storm damage to a footbridge that crosses Ramsey Prong in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will force closure of the Ramsey Cascades Trail into late April.

Park officials say recent high winds felled a large hemlock tree onto the 60-foot-long footbridge that crosses the stream. The tree destroyed the handrail for the bridge, which is about 12 feet above the river. The bridge was also cracked and separated from the foundation.

For more information about trail closures, please visit the park’s website or call the Backcountry Information Office at 865-436-1297.


A bridge is out, just like many are over in Cataloochee and they close a trail. Heaven forbid anyone should have to ford a stream. So let's not allow them to do so.

Perhaps you're familiar with the route in question and can offer some more details. The story says the bridge is 12 feet above the water and 60 feet long, and the photo suggests some fast water, so this doesn't sound like a casual stream crossing.

I don't know if fording the stream without the bridge can be done safely, or if a lot of hikers scrambling up and down the bank to ford the stream would results in undue damage and future erosion? One hiking site says the stream in question has "countless waterfalls and rapids."

It's easy to be critical of decisions to close the trail for about a 6-week period when we aren't responsible for protecting the resource or providing for visitor safety. Lawsuits would seen inevitable if the park left the trail open, knowing there was a potentially dangerous situation, and an accident then occurred.

On another recent story on the Traveler, there's been criticism for another park's failure to deal with a safety problem on a trail that resulted in a fatality, and a lot of taxpayer dollars were paid out as a result. We can't have it both ways - either the agency errs on the side of caution, or it ignores the problem at the risk of a serious incident, and hopes for the best.

Those are all good questions, and again, I don't know anything about the difficulty of the specific crossing in question without the bridge. Certainly every trail with hazards should not be closed.

The question becomes a little more difficult when users of a specific, fairly heavily used trail  have come to expect a "safe" crossing via a bridge - and suddenly the bridge is no longer there.  Is closing the trail in this situation for about 6 weeks to make it safer an unreasonable decision? Opinions will likely vary :-)

I've been on Ramsey Cascade several times. Crossing the river without a bridge would be a challenge if you can't stand up. Then you aren't fording; you're swimming. Ramsey Cascade is a "top of the pops" destination, easy to find. I've seen completely unprepared families trying to walk the trail without a pack or even water.


Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide