The U.S. Forest Service is blocking access to the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee and North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina, and the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee said they are temporarily shutting down trailhead facilities and other access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail to prevent groups from congregating and to protect public health and safety.

The decision aligns with state and local measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We realize our communities and our visitors value the recreation opportunities the forest has to offer,” said JaSal Morris, Cherokee National Forest Supervisor. “A lot of consideration went into this decision. The health and safety of our employees and the public remain our top priority.”

The following popular access sites are affected by these changes: Wayah Bald, Cheoah Bald, Hampton and Dennis Cove Trailheads, Osborne Farm, Max Patch, Roan Mountain at Carvers Gap and Lovers Leap.

In addition, the National Park Service has ordered the closure of shelters along the trail in Virginia.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy previously asked hikers to avoid the trail due the virus.

rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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