Blue Ridge Parkway officials have temporarily closed nearly eight miles of highway due to a recent uptick in human interactions with bears.
The closure impacts a portion of the popular scenic highway from milepost 367.6 near the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area to milepost 375.6 at Ox Creek Road.
Visitors can still access Craggy Gardens via NC 80 from the north, but a nearby visitor center will remain closed.
This comes after multiple reports of visitors feeding and attempting to hold a bear cub at the Lake Pinnacle Overlook.
According to a news release, the highway closed on Monday and will not reopen until further notice.
Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout says she’s concerned for the safety of both the bear and park visitors, noting that attempts to attract the animals with trash and food “can lead to very dangerous situations.”
While fall is a popular time for leaf-peeping motorists to seek out the Parkway’s views, it’s also a critical time of year for bears as they forage for food in advance of winter hibernation.
Officials are reminding visitors to keep food safely hidden and familiarize themselves with tips provided on the Parkway’s Bear Safety web page.