The most popular national park in America doesn’t charge admission, but starting today, parking will cost money.
As part of the park’s new Park It Forward initiative, all cars parked in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more than 15 minutes now require a parking tag.
The national park stated on its website that “100% of revenues collected from these fees stay in the Smokies and go straight back into protecting the Smokies and ensuring the tourist experience remains first-rate.”
If visitors intend to drive to the park that straddles North Carolina and Tennessee, they should be aware of the following.
What is the price of parking in the Great Smoky Mountains?
Regardless of the size of the car, parking permits, which are specific to the licence plate, are $5 for daily parking, $15 for seven days, and $40 for annual parking.
Badges must be placed on each vehicle’s front, passenger windscreen and can be purchased both offline and online. They are not upgradeable, non-refundable, or transferable. Interagency passes are not acceptable as replacements.
A parking tag is not necessary for drivers who are merely passing through the area or who park for under 15 minutes. Additionally, there are exclusions for school groups, drivers who display disability parking placards or licence plates, those who possess specific special use licences, and individuals who are engaged in legal study.
Why does the park require parking fees?
For the past ten years, park attendance has increased by almost 60%, but funding has not kept pace, leaving the park with millions of dollars in unmet maintenance costs.
According to a news statement from the park, “all funds raised through the Park it Forward programme will stay in the park to support operational costs for managing and enhancing visitor services like trail maintenance, janitorial services, and garbage removal.” The initiative will also support extra law enforcement personnel, emergency responders, and resource education programmes throughout the park.