Beginning March next year, parking tags will be required for any motor vehicle parked within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park’s leadership decided to adopt the Park it Forward parking tag program and increase camping fees in 2023.
Approved parking rates are $5 for a daily parking tag, $15 for a parking tag for up to seven days, and $40 for an annual parking tag, the National Park Service announced in a press release today.
The revenues will go back to the park to provide sustainable, year-round support focusing on improving the visitor experience, protecting resources, and maintaining trails, roads, historic structures, and facilities.
“Today marks a significant milestone in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.
“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.”
It must also be noted that parking tags will not guarantee a parking spot. Furthermore, the use of all park roads will remain toll-free. Parking tags will not be required for motorists who pass through the area or who park vehicles for less than fifteen minutes.
The director of the National Park Service has authorized permission for the park to offer an annual tag, which will allow parking throughout the park from the date of purchase. While any visitor may purchase an annual parking tag, the approval for this option was sought by park leadership specifically for local residents who are more likely to visit multiple times throughout the year.
Operational details, including where to purchase Park it Forward tags, will be posted on the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/2023-fees.htm.
For camping, backcountry camping fees will be $8 per night, with a maximum of $40 per camper. Frontcountry family campsite fees will be $30 per night for primitive sites and $36 per night for sites with electrical hookups.
Group camps, horse camps, and picnic pavilions fees will primarily increase by between 20 and 30 percent, depending on group size and location.
Rates for daily rental of the Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin in Elkmont will be $300 and $200, respectively.
For a complete listing of all front-country facility rates, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/2023-fees.htm.
Year after year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park. Over the last decade, visitation increased by 57 percent to a record 14.1 million visits in 2021. With rising costs and more visitation, additional revenue is critical to support the park’s upkeep. The new fee changes will allow park users to contribute towards protecting the park directly.