The U.S. Forest Service has closed all campgrounds on National Forest land in North Carolina effective immediately. The closure, announced on Monday, will remain in place until further notice.
Van Hook Glade campground near Highlands is included in the closed facilities.
“The National Forests in North Carolina continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and evaluate potential impacts and adjustments to reservations and our reservation policies through Recreation.gov,” a statement from USFS officials read. “Reservation holders will be notified via email and/or cell phone text messages of any changes affecting their reservation. Visitors will receive a full refund for their reservation.”
The closure of the campsites was deemed a necessary precaution in the ongoing fight to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
Following the announcement made by the USFS, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy issued a statement asking all hikers to stay off the Appalachian Trail.
“Many day hikers see the outdoors as an escape from the stresses of these difficult times,” ATC president Sandra Marra said in a written statement. “But with crowding from day hikers reaching unmanageable levels and the lack of any staff or volunteers to manage this traffic, it is necessary that all hikers avoid accessing the trail. The AT is not a separate reality from the communities in which hikers live – so, until the risk of spreading COVID-19 has reduced significantly, hiking on a heavily-trafficked trail like the AT potentially increases rather than reduces harm.”
On Tuesday, Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed to visitors through April 6, with the exception of the Foothills Parkway. Information provided by GSMNP officials notes that despite the Center for Disease Control’s call for social distancing, approximately 30,000 visitors entered the park daily over the past week.