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Heads Up: New Parking Fee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

woman staring at the smokies with the words park it forward.
A new “Park It Forward”  program has been implemented for visitors wishing to park within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). As of March 1, 2023, parking tags are being sold for $5 per day, $15 per week, or $40 per year per car. Passes are for sale online at or for either shipment or printing. They can also be purchased at the Automated Fee Machines (AFM) in the park’s parking lots, or at various businesses in nearby communities. Parking tags are not location specific and are valid for only one vehicle with a matching license plate number. Your daily and weekly parking pass must be placed on the lower passenger-side dashboard and your annual tag must be displayed on the lower passenger-side windshield. There are multiple ways to get your parking pass, including at physical locations and online.

Are There Any Parking Fee Exemptions?

Yes! Visitors enjoying a scenic drive through the park or those parking for fewer than 15 minutes do not need a parking pass. Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and descendants of the original mountain homesteaders receive special consideration that includes no parking fees under certain circumstances. For more information on these special permits, please click Special Use Permit system. Visitors with handicap plates or placards also are exempt from parking fees. Front-country campers do not need a tag to park at their campsite unless they exceed the number of permitted vehicles at their site. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park participates in the National Parks Service’s fee-free days. Visitors do not need to display a parking tag on fee free days. School groups visiting the park for educational or scientific purposes and permitted researchers while engaged in their permitted research activities may apply for a fee-waived parking permit by contacting Visitors with the America is Beautiful program’s Access Pass and Senior Pass receive a 50% discount on parking.

The Benefits

Most importantly, the monies raised through this new parking fee will remain in this 88-year-old park. The GSMNP Service is focusing on 2 priorities. The first is the maintenance of this national treasure. Management is increasing habitat rehabilitation for its denizens, protecting water quality, and increasing its educational programs. The Park Service is responsible for the maintenance of 850 miles of trails and 384 miles of roadway in this 500,000-acre wilderness. In addition, they operate 27 different wastewater systems within the park and provide custodial services, trash removal, and emergency response. Emergency response and law enforcement is an equally high priority. Park Rangers are the first responders to emergencies, provide traditional guidance service, and ensure compliance of park rules. They will also be the ones enforcing the new parking fees, but initially that means more education than citations while visitors are adjusting to the new Park It Forward policy. Over the last 10 years, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has seen a 57% increase in visitors. It’s expected that these parking rates will underwrite the cost to meet the growing needs of its visitors.

Increases to Other Park Fees

In addition to new parking fees, other park rates are being raised nominally. These include backcountry sites, campgrounds, picnic pavilions, daily-use cabins, groups camps, and horse camps. The fee for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail has also been raised. The increases vary by location, amenities, and size, so please click here for the specifics on each.