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National forests shut down trailheads and Appalachian Trail access points

(WITN)
Published: Mar. 30, 2020 at 7:02 PM EDT
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As the coronavirus outbreak continues and officials work to stop people from gathering in large groups, including in outdoor spaces like the Appalachian Trail, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are issuing new restrictions.

The national forests announced on Monday evening that they're temporarily shutting down all trailhead facilities and other access points to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in order to prevent groups from congregating there as a way to protect public health and safety.

They say that decision aligns with CDC guidance and measures from the Virginia Department of Health.

Many recreation opportunities within the national forest remain open for public use, including dispersed camping and other activities that support social distancing and small groups.

“We realize our communities and our visitors value the recreation opportunities the forest has to offer,” said Joby Timm, George Washington and Jefferson 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.”

In addition to Appalachian Trail-dedicated parking lots, the following sites are temporarily shut down:

Jennings Creek Trailhead

Petite’s Gap Trailhead

Long Mountain Wayside Trailhead

Mount Pleasant/Hog Camp Gap Trailhead

James River Footbridge Trailhead

Priest/Three Ridges Trailhead

Crabtree Meadows Trailhead

SR42 Trailhead at O’Lystery Pavilion

Walker Gap Trailhead

Burke’s Garden Trailhead (SR623)

SR615 Trailhead at Laurel Creek (Suiter)

SR52 Trailhead in Bastian

I-77 Trailhead in Bastian

Price Ridge Road Trailhead (Crandon)

SR606 Trailhead (near Trent’s Store)

Angel’s Rest Trailhead

Town of Pearisburg Trailhead

Big Stoney Creek Road Trailhead (Pine Swamp/Peters Mountain Wilderness)

Cherokee Flats Day-Use Area Trailhead

SR613 Trailhead at Wind Rock

War Spur Trailhead at Captain

SR42 Trailhead (Huffman)

SR621 Trailhead (Craig’s Creek)

Audie Murphy Trailhead

SR620 Trailhead (Craig’s Creek)

Dragon’s Tooth Trailhead

Andy Layne Trail Trailhead

Whitetop Mountain/Forest Road 89 Trailhead

Elk Garden Trailhead, SR600 crossing

Scales/Forest Road 613 Trailhead (Pine Mountain Road)

Forest Road 603 Trailhead Parking (near Fox Creek Horse Camp)

Hurricane Campground/Comers Creek Road Trailhead

Hwy 16 Trailhead at Forest Road 650

NRA Headquarters/Hwy 16 Crossing Trailhead

Davis Valley Trailhead, Davis Valley Rd

Tillson Crossing Trailhead, SR 610 Nebo Road

For a complete of list of access sites affected by these changes and status updates, please visit www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation.

Forest Service managers are reminding all visitors to be responsible if coming to the forests by avoiding groups of more than ten people and avoiding high-risk activities like rock climbing that increase the chance of injury.

That's because law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19.

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests previously announced that they would be temporarily shutting down all recreation areas and campgrounds, as well as bathrooms, OHV trails, trail shelters and many day-use areas.

Campgrounds and picnic shelters are temporarily unavailable for reservation on

. Anyone who already had a reservation will be notified and refunds will be processed.

However, those refunds, like many refunds right now, may be delayed due to the volume of cancellations.

The national forests have also shut down off-highway trail systems, including the South Pedlar ATV Trail System in the Glenwood-Pedlar Ranger District and the Peters Mill Run/Taskers Gap OHV System in the Lee Ranger District.

The national forests say their number one priority is the health and safety of the public, which is why they ordered the closures.

You can learn more about updates on George Washington and Jefferson National Forests facilities and sites at

.