October 2017: The A.T. section between US321 (NB Mile 427) and Wilbur Dam Road (NB Mile 431.4), including Watauga Lake Shelter, is still closed to camping due to bear activity. A temporary campsite (no water) has been set up at coordinates N36.29847, W82.12701 (NB Mile 426.5) just outside the Pond Mountain Wilderness. Also nearby is Boots Off Hostel along Bear Branch Road on the south side of the closed section. Vandeventer Shelter is open to the north of the restricted section.
April 2016: Two nights of bear encounters have been recently reported at the Watauga Lake Shelter. The bears were seeking food, thus destroyed a pair of tents, able to shake a bag off the bear pole, and climbed trees for hanged bags.
The US Forest Service has reinstated a Closure Order similar to the previous one which now covers Oliver Hollow Rd./Hwy 321 to Wilbur Dam Rd. – approximately four miles of the Appalachian Trail along the west side of Watauga Lake. No picnicking, lingering, or overnight camping. Hiking, only, allowed on the named four mile Appalachian Trail section. BEARS ACTIVE IN THIS AREA. Help us protect you and the bears. Please hike through the area without stopping. Closure Order: April 15, 2016- Until Further notice.
For TEHCC members, the best recommendation is to avoid this “Oliver Hollow” area and enjoy another section of the Appalachian Trail. For thru-hikers, the word is being gotten out so that they can properly plan their distances. The temporary campsite located south of Hwy 321 above Shook Branch is available for use.