RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Fourteen miles (23 kilometers) of the Blue Ridge Parkway through southwestern North Carolina were closed to the public Tuesday in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the National Park Service announced.
Officials did not say when the stretch, ranging from the Soco Gap to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, would reopen.
The service noted that other sections of the parkway, which runs more than 450 miles (724 kilometers) from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, would remain accessible. Officials noted they would continue to monitor "changing conditions" across the region.
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation also warned potential visitors that some of the more popular destinations along the trail, such as attractions near Asheville and Boone, were seeing high visitation rates that could pose challenges to state and federal guidance limiting the amount of people allowed to gather, according to a post on its site.
All pubic restrooms on the parkway were also closed, the foundation said.
The announcement comes as popular national parks across the country closed their gates Tuesday as visitors continued flocking to the sites. Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw visitation rates higher than those recorded at the same time last year, which led to congestion at some sites before its closure Tuesday, officials said.