GSMNP (press release)—Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are reopening trails and backcountry campsites in the Hazel Creek area. The area has been closed since June 6 following the recent bear attack.
Park rangers and wildlife biologists have been monitoring the area daily using traps and cameras. Biologists recently detected bear activity at two other trap sites at locations within the Hazel Creek area and were able to collect hair samples for DNA analysis which was completed this week. The analysis determined that the bears active in the area were not associated with the bear attack.
“Based on this information, I feel it is reasonably safe to end the closure at this time,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Our staff has demonstrated extraordinary dedication and determination over the last several weeks to help ensure hiker safety in the Hazel Creek backcountry.” Campsites will be marked with bear activity warning signs to remind hikers to exercise caution while hiking in the area and follow all food storage regulations.
Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail, Derrick Knob Shelter, and backcountry campsites 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, and 88 are all reopened. For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.