Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Implement Parking Fees Starting Next Year

Parking passes will cost $5 for the day, $15 for up to seven days, and $40 for an annual parking tag.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance sign Photo: Jerry Whaley/Getty Images

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will implement a paid-parking pass program and increase camping fees next year in an effort to raise money for park maintenance and improvements.

The new fee structure, which will go into effect on March 1, 2023, will require visitors to display a tag on any motor vehicle parked within the park boundaries, according to the National Park Service. Each parking tag will cost $5 for the day, $15 for up to seven days, and $40 annually.

Additionally, the park is raising camping fees.

Starting next year, frontcountry family campsites will cost $30 per night for primitive sites and $36 per night for sites with electrical hookups. Currently, frontcountry camping costs $27 or less. Backcountry camping fees will be $8 per night, with a maximum of $40 per camper.

“Today marks a significant milestone in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a statement. “I have been incredibly encouraged by all the support, from across the country, and especially here in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, for the opportunity to invest in the future care of this treasured park. We take great pride in being the country’s most visited national park, but that distinction comes with tremendous strain on our infrastructure. Now we will have sustained resources to ensure this sacred place is protected for visitors to enjoy for generations to come.”

Some things, however, will remain free like the actual use of park roads for drivers who are passing through or parking for less than 15 minutes.

The NPS said all money raised from the fees will go toward improving the visitor experience, protecting resources, and maintaining trails, roads, historic structures, and facilities.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is located in both North Carolina and Tennessee, was one of the most visited parks in the country last year with 14.1 million people passing through, according to the NPS. It was only eclipsed by the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway, which saw 15.9 million visitors.

And visitation numbers are only increasing with the park seeing a 57% increase over the last decade.


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