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What Does It Cost to Enter the Smoky Mountains National Park?

Popular Places in the ParkCades CoveWhat Does It Cost to Enter the Smoky Mountains National Park?

Planning to visit the iconic Great Smoky Mountains? Make sure you know the entrance fee! It’s free of charge to experience the beauty of America’s most visited national park, as there is no cost to enter.

The states of Tennessee and North Carolina bought the land that now makes up Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with help from generous donations from people all over, including philanthropic figures like the Rockefellers. The lands were then handed over to the National Park Service.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has several applicable entrance fees for visitors. Front and backcountry camping, along with parking, all require payment starting March 1, 2023.

The Best Way To Secure Your Great Smoky Mountains Parking Pass


Can I Just Drive Through Smoky Mountain National Park?

Taking a scenic drive is one of the easiest and most rewarding things you can do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With almost 400 miles of roadway in the park and the surrounding scenic area, you can drive to specific locations to enjoy, as well as tour through steadily changing vistas of great beauty.

The Entrance Fee to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not prohibited by any of the deed transfers that were made when the park was formed, nor is it banned by any enabling legislation.

Approx. 85% of the park lands were purchased from 18 logging companies, while the remaining 15% was acquired from over 1,200 individual landowners. The formation and advancement of this national park from these land sales is what has enabled us to enjoy it today!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina, and was purchased by the two states through funds from a number of sources. Funding for purchasing the land for the park was provided through donations from school children, millions donated by the Rockefellers, and government grants.

The park’s founding legislation does not preclude the park from charging an entrance fee for access.

Why, then, don’t they charge an entrance fee? It boils down to a few historic legal actions.

In 1951, the state of Tennessee transferred Newfound Gap Road (Hwy 441) and Little River Road (Hwy 71/73) to the park. That deed transfer contained a restriction preventing tolls on either road. (Before the creation of the Interstate Highway System, these were the main roads between Tennessee and North Carolina, and the state likely included this restriction to ensure access to free interstate travel.)

A federal law (1994 {1964} U.S. Code Title 16) prevented the NPS from charging entrance fees where tolls are prohibited on primary park roads. Because Newfound Gap Road and Little River Road are the primary roads in GSMNP, they are, to this day, unable to charge an entrance fee.


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