55.4 F
Gatlinburg
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Save Money 728x90

How To Buy Your Smoky Mountains Parking Pass

Popular Places in the ParkCades CoveHow To Buy Your Smoky Mountains Parking Pass

Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains doesn’t have to be a hassle when you have a parking pass. Learn all you need to know about acquiring and using a parking pass, so that you can make the most of your visit to this beautiful area.

Plan Ahead to Make Sure You Have Your Smoky Mountains Parking Pass

To make sure that you are all set to explore the Great Smoky Mountains, plan ahead and secure your parking pass in advance. You can purchase a pass online, at a park entrance station, or at one of the area businesses that also offer passes. Depending on which type of pass you purchase (Daily, Weeklong, Annual), they offer different lengths of validity. Be sure to double check expiration dates to make sure your pass will be valid for the length of your visit.

Starting March 1, 2023, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin charging a parking fee. Visitation to the national park has had a 57% increase over the past decade. With the tremendous increase in visitors comes a need for increased staff and maintenance at the park. Sadly the national park operational budget has not kept up with the facilitation needs.

Why can’t the Great Smoky Mountains National Park charge an entrance fee?

The Great Smoky Mountains Parking Pass fee will provide tremendous support to the national park.

Article Contents:

Other Resources:

All revenue generated through these user fees will remain in the Smokies to directly support operational costs for managing and improving services for visitors including trail maintenance, custodial services, trash removal, and supporting more staffing to increase the presence of personnel across the park.

Expect a better visitor experience overall. There will be an increased focus on the maintenance of the historic structures in the park so everyone can enjoy them for years to come. Historic structures in the park consist of cabins, churches, mills, and more.

The Great Smoky Mountains parking pass fee is as follows: $5 for a daily fee, $15 for a tag for up to 7 days, and $40 for an annual tag.

This fee only involves parking of a vehicle so you will still be able to drive all the roads in the national park without paying a fee. If you are only parking for 15 minutes or less, you will be happy to hear there is no tag required for this short window!

Smoky Mountains Parking Pass Tag Basics

  • Three tag durations will be available for purchase for all vehicle sizes and types:
    • Daily – $5
    • Weekly – $15
    • Annual – $40
  • Parking tags will not be replaceable, refundable, transferable, or upgradable.
  • Each tag will be valid for a single vehicle and must include a license plate number matching the vehicle in which it is displayed.
  • Parking tags will be available for purchase both online and onsite.
  • Display of physical parking tags in each vehicle will be required. Digital representations will not be accepted.
  • Parking tags will not be location-specific. A parking tag will be required to park in any designated parking spot anywhere within the boundaries of the Smokies.
  • Parking tags will not be required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes.

So for those who just like to drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and sightsee from the comfort of your car, there are not any fees.

Where to buy Great Smoky Mountains National Park Parking Pass?

Online: Purchase and Ship

Enjoy the convenience of purchasing your parking tag before you arrive and have it shipped straight to your door. 

  • Annual Parking Tags will be available for purchase online through Great Smoky Mountains Assocation.

Online: Purchase and Print

Enjoy the convenience of purchasing your parking tag before you arrive.

  • Beginning February 21, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. EST, visitors will be able to purchase daily or weekly parking tags online through recreation.govVisitors MUST print and display their parking tag. Park staff will not print the tag for you.

In-Person Sales Locations

Annual parking tags are now for sale at the following locations. Daily and weekly parking tags will be available for sale in late February. Hours vary seasonally. 

  • Gatlinburg Welcome Center
    • Located on the southbound side of US 441 (The Spur) between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN, Gatlinburg Welcome Center is operated as a partnership between the City of Gatlinburg, the National Park Service, and Great Smoky Mountains Association. This center also functions as a park and ride (free parking) for riding trolleys into Gatlinburg.
    • Address: 1011 Banner Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Phone: 865.436.7318 EXT 323
  • Sugarlands Visitor Center
    • Located 2 miles south of Gatlinburg, TN, this visitor center offers a renowned natural history museum, changeable park exhibits, and a staffed information desk.
    • Address: 1420 Fighting Creek Gap Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Phone: 865.436.7318 EXT 347
  • Townsend Visitor Center
    • Located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
    • Address: 7606 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Townsend, TN 37882
    • Phone: 865.436.7318 EXT 320
  • Cades Cove Visitor Center
    • Located halfway around the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road at the Cavle Mill historic area.
    • Address: 686 Cades Cove Loop Road, Townsend, TN 37882
    • Phone: 865.436.7318 EXT 321
  • Cades Cove Orientation Shelter
    • Located within the Orientation Shelter at the entrance of Cades Cove Loop Road.
    • Address: Cades Cove Loop Rd, Townsend, TN 37882 
  • Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Store
    • Located 2 miles from the Townsend Wye on Tremont Road, this visitor center is affiliated with the acclaimed outdoor education institute.
    • Address: 9275 Tremont Road, Townsend, TN 37882
    • Phone: 865.448.6709
  • Clingmans Dome Visitor Center
    • Located at the end of Clingmans Dome Road, 7 miles from Newfound Gap, this visitor center sits at an elevation of 6,300 feet.
    • Address: 7078 Clingmans Dome Road, Cherokee, NC 28719
    • Phone: 865.436.7318 EXT 326
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center
    • Located 1.5 miles north of Cherokee, NC, on Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441), this visitor center and museum were opened in 2011.
    • Address: 1194 Newfound Gap Highway, Cherokee, NC 28719
    • Phone: 865.436.7318 EXT 327
  • Swain County Visitor Center
    • Located on the ground floor of the historic Swain County Courthouse, the Swain County Visitor Center is a partnership between Swain County, N.C., the National Park Service and Great Smoky Mountains Association.
    • Address: 2 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC 28713
    • Phone: 828.488.7857

Automated Vending Machines

Beginning March 1, daily and weekly parking tags will be available for purchase by credit card from automated fee machines available year round, 24 hours a day. Locations of the automated fee machines will be shared when installation is complete. 

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg:

Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg: Steps away from all of the excitement of downtown Gatlinburg, this hotel rates among the highest hotels by guests. Rustic mountain elements blend seamlessly with tropical touches to create a mountain paradise with an island state of mind.

The Park Vista Hotel – A Doubletree by Hilton Hotel: Located right outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this hotel is located in Gatlinburg and features a multi-level indoor pool. Impressive views overlooking downtown Gatlinburg.

Baskin Creek Condos III: Located a 7-minute walk from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and 6.6 miles from Dolly Parton’s Stampede.

How to Display Your Great Smoky Mountains National Park Parking Tag Pass

Image of an annual and a daily parking tag displayed in a vehicle’s windshield.
NPS Image

Annual parking tags must be displayed in the front, lower passenger side windshield. Daily and weekly parking tags must be placed face-up on the front, lower passenger side dashboard.

I have multiple vehicles in my household, can I transfer my parking tag between them?

  • No. Each parking tag is valid for a single vehicle and must include the license plate for the vehicle in which is it displayed.

Where should I display my valid parking tag?

  • Annual parking tags must be displayed in the front, lower passenger side windshield. Daily and weekly parking tags must be placed face-up on the front, lower passenger side dashboard.

If I have a parking tag, would I be guaranteed a parking spot?

  • No, parking tags will not a guarantee a specific parking spot in a specific location or for a specific time frame.
  • Parking at the busiest areas will require visitors to plan ahead to choose off-peak hours, days, and seasons to better the chances of parking availability.

Answer: All parking lots within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are subject to availability and a parking pass does not guarantee a spot. However, having a valid park pass does mean that you can enter and exit the park for free throughout your stay, as well as access all of the park’s attractions at no additional cost.

How will the parking tag requirement be enforced?

  • Failure to comply with the parking tag requirements may result in a warning, a citation, or your vehicle being towed at your expense.
  • A variety of staff positions will assist in raising awareness of the program through presence across the park.

When will my parking tag expire?

  • Daily and weekly parking tags expire at 11:59pm ET on the date printed on the tag.
  • Annual parking tags expire at 11:59pm ET on the last day of expiration month.

Are there different parking tag prices based on vehicle size or type?

  • No. The same parking tag options and prices apply to all motor vehicles, including motorcycles, UTVs, RVs etc., regardless of size.
  • Please keep in mind that parking is extremely limited for oversized vehicles.

Will interagency passes be accepted in lieu of the parking tag or will there be a discount on parking tags for interagency pass holders?

  • Interagency passes (aka America the Beautiful passes) will NOT be accepted in lieu of the parking tag and will NOT provide a discount for the purchase of the parking tag.
  • The park continues to apply a 50% discount on camping fees for two America the Beautiful pass types, Access and Senior.
  • You can learn more about the America the Beautiful pass types at the NPS Entrance Passes webpage.

Will the park offer free parking tags to Tribal citizens?

  • Yes, the National Park Service will provide parking tags at no cost to Tribal leaders who will then distribute the tags to Tribal citizens who are coming to the park for traditional activities.
  • The National Park Service expressly allows citizens of American Indian Tribes to enter parks for traditional activities without paying fees.
  • The NPS acknowledges that the phrase “’traditional’ activities” is neither a static concept nor is a set of neatly listed activities that can be defined by the NPS but should be defined by the member of the respective communities themselves.

Will there be a discount for residents of local counties?

  • The annual tag option is specifically provided to meet the needs of local residents for year-round, repeated access.

Will the Smokies participate in the NPS fee free days?

  • Yes, the Smokies will participate in the NPS fee free days. Visitors will not need to display a valid parking tag on fee free days.

Will family members be able to visit family gravesites inside the park without paying the fee?

  • The park uses the Special Use Permit system to issue permits at no cost for Decoration Days, family reunions for descendants across the park, and cemetery visits.
  • Decoration Day permit holders will be exempt from the parking tag requirement for the duration of their permit.
  • Each cemetery visit is unique and park staff work directly with descendants to coordinate special access including annual boat shuttles, vehicle shuttles, and use of administrative roads.

Will vehicles parked at a commercial service inside the park be exempt from the parking tag requirement?

  • No. Parking lots associated with commercial services will not exempt from the parking tag requirement.

Will vehicles displaying a disabled parking placard or license plate be exempt from the parking tag requirement?

  • Yes. Vehicles with valid, state-issued disabled placards or license plates are exempt from the parking tag requirement.

Will special use permit holders be exempt from the parking tag requirement?

  • Three special use permit types are exempt from the parking tag requirement: burials, cemetery visits including Decoration Days and first amendment activities. No other special use permit types, including weddings, are exempt from the parking tag requirement.

Will picnic pavilion reservation holders be exempt from the parking tag requirement?

  • No. Having a picnic pavilion reservation does not exempt you from the parking tag requirement.

Will registered frontcountry campers and permitted backcountry users be exempt from the parking tag requirement?

  • No. Backcountry campers will not be exempt from the parking tag requirement.
  • Front country campers parked at their designated campsite will not be required to have a parking tag. If they park elsewhere in the park, a parking tag will be required. Please note that parking tags will be required for vehicles in excess of what is allowable for each campsite. Information about how many vehicles are allowed at each facility is available on recreation.gov.

Will Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) service providers be exempt from the parking tag requirement?

  • No. Having a CUA does not exempt you from the parking tag requirement. The same requirements and the same price structure applies to CUA holders.

I drive a motorcycle; how will I display my parking tag?

  • The annual parking tag is a cling and can be adhered to the motorcycle windshield or other highly-visible surface.
  • The daily and weekly tags are paper but will also need to be prominently displayed. Making sure the tag does not blow away or fall off is the responsibility of the visitor. One option is to tape the tag to the inside of the motorcycle windshield or instrument display. Motorcyclists should plan ahead and come prepared to adequately display their parking tag.

What will the parking tag fee support?

  • All revenue generated through these user fees will remain in the Smokies to directly support operational costs for managing and improving services for visitors including trail maintenance, custodial services, trash removal, and supporting more staffing to increase the presence of personnel across the park.

Will the parking tag program relieve congestion or solve parking issues in the park?

  • Parking tag sales will not be limited or capped, therefore, the program is not anticipated to relieve congestion or solve parking issues in the park.
  • Parking tag revenue will be used to better serve the visitor with one of the goals being the reduction of congestion.

Gatlinburg Hotels and Cabins

RELATED ARTICLES

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular