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Great Smoky Mountains National Park parking fees start in March, annual passes now available

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Courtesy of the GSMNP
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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's new requirement for parking passes starts in March.

Over the last decade, visitation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has increased by 57 percent to more than 14 million visits in 2021, according to the park service.

The spike in traffic means an increase in stress on the park’s infrastructure. To generate revenue for the operational costs of managing and improving visitor services such as trail maintenance, custodial services, and trash removal, parking passes will be required beginning in March.

“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,” Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in an August 2022 press release.

Image of a parking pass with a picture of a bear, evergreen trees and mountains.
Courtesy of GSMNP
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Here is a mock-up of the GSMNP annual parking passes.

The $40 annual parking tags can be purchased online through the Great Smoky Mountains Association or at any of the park's visitor centers. Any annual tags purchased before March 1 will be valid through the end of March 2024. The $5 daily and $15 weekly parking tags will be available on February 21 at 10 a.m. EST at recreation.gov. 

Last year, park officials announced the requirement for parking passes following a public comment period that garnered 15,000 responses.

“Park it Forward is crucial to the future of the park and its resources,” Cash said in a press release. “Parking tag sales will provide critically needed support to protect and enhance the visitor experience, not just for tomorrow, but for generations to come.” 

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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  • Starting March 2023, parking tags will be required to be displayed on any motor vehicle parked within the park boundary. Visitors will be charged $5 for a daily parking tag, $15 for a parking tag up to seven days or $40 for an annual tag. Before now there hasn’t been a cost to enter the park. The “Park it Forward” funds will be used in the park for facilities, trail maintenance and more.