Officials have closed part of the Appalachian Trail to camping due to reports of aggressive bears approaching hikers, following several similar closures over the past few years.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy announced on Wednesday that the Forest Service had closed approximately 7 miles of the trail along the North Carolina/Tennessee border, spanning from Tanyard Gap to Deep Gap (NOBO miles 280.8 to 287.7), to camping after a number of hikers reported bear encounters. The closure includes a campsite at Rich Mountain, as well as the Spring Mountain Shelter.
“All area visitors should use caution, pack out all trash and food scraps, and never leave food unattended,” the ATC wrote. “Overnight hikers should plan their itineraries accordingly to avoid camping in this section or find an alternative route.”
Overly bold bruins have been a problem for hikers in North Carolina and Tennessee over the past several years, with a number of shelters and campsites closing temporarily after the food-conditioned animals began seeking out sustenance from hikers. In 2021, the USFS closed miles 451 to 464 of the AT in Tennessee to camping because of bear activity. Further closures followed in 2022: In October, officials closed the trail to camping from the Tennessee-Virginia border to the trail’s intersection with Highway 421, while earlier in the year New Jersey closed a campsite after a bear attempted to enter a hiker’s tent.
In its post, the ATC noted that the Forest Service issued a food storage order last month requiring hikers along the trail in the USFS’s Southern Region—essentially everything south of Shenandoah—to keep their smellables in a bear canister, a vehicle, land manager-provided vessels like bear lockers, or in a proper bear hang. (Though if you weren’t doing that already, well, what were you doing?)
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