REI supports Smokies Trails Forever & iconic Chimney Tops Trail overhaul

Press release

From REI
In thinking of things to be thankful for this holiday season Friends of the Smokies, and any hiker who has hiked the Chimney Tops trail to the spectacular mountain ridge views, are thankful to Recreational Equipment Inc. for helping fund the work of the Smokies Trails Forever program. REI donated $5,000 to support the Trails Forever crew and 106 dedicated volunteers to preserve and protect this iconic trail.

Over the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s much loved Chimney Tops trail, the combination of heavy use, abundant rainfall, and steep terrain turned the trail into a badly eroded obstacle course of slick broken rock, exposed tree roots, and mud. The Trails Forever crew, along with volunteers, re-constructed the trail using sustainable materials to preserve the trail and protect the resources around the trail corridor. The work that was completed is not only lasting but also is aesthetically pleasing, greatly improving the visitor experience and safety on the way up to the sweeping views from the Chimney Tops.

Previously REI helped purchase a Trails Forever equipment trailer facilitating tool and equipment storage, helping make each workday run smoothly. They also contributed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s celebration of National Public Lands Day this past September. REI continues to promote volunteer opportunities with the Smokies Trails Forever program.

In 2012 Smokies Trails Forever volunteers included people who have donated their time and skills with trail work in previous years, have volunteered with the Park in other ways, and are volunteering in the Smokies for the first time. New volunteers included families spending their week vacation volunteering and participants in the American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation. Volunteers worked alongside the highly skilled crew for 1,150 hours on all aspects of the project. To see pictures and learn how the crew and volunteers employed different construction techniques to transform the condition of the trail please visit the Coordinator’s Corner on

The highly successful Smokies Trails Forever model of integrating skilled Park staff with enthusiastic volunteer hands and private funding support, like REI, continues with additional critical trail improvements in 2013. More information about how individuals, groups, and businesses can help protect the natural places they love this holiday season and beyond is available at or call (828) 452-0720.

Additional Online Resources:
Friends of the Smokies –
Smokies Trails Forever –

Since 1993, the not-for-profit Friends of the Smokies organization has raised more than $37 million to help maintain Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a crown jewel of the national park system, including the establishment of the $4 million Trails Forever endowment to improve Smoky Mountain hiking trails in perpetuity.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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