GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — For visitors to the Smokies who stay a while, there will be park-related purchases to make starting next year. Back in August, park officials announced the “Park It Forward” fee system will help cover the costs of operating and maintaining the park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park‘s “Park It Forward” program launching in March 2023 will include new parking pass or tag fees plus an increase in camping fees for visitors to the country’s most visited national park. In fact, a record 14.1 million visitors came to the Smokies last year and park officials say visitation to GSMNP has increased more than 50% over the last decade.
Here’s what to know about the parking tags and camping fees:
When do the fees begin?
- March 1, 2023. Camping fees will increase and there will be a new requirement for parking passes or tags.
- The annual tag will allow for parking throughout the park from the date of purchase and will be required to be displayed on any motor vehicle parked within the Smokies.
How much are the parking tags?
The approved parking rates are:
- $5 for a daily parking tag
- $15 for a parking tag for up to 7 days
- $40 for an annual parking tag
The purchased parking tags will not guarantee a parking spot at a specific location. Parking will continue to be available on a “first-come, first-serve” basis throughout the park.
GSMNP officials said in August they believe the revenue collected from parking fees will bring in around $7 million annually.
Are parking passes or tags required for driving through the Smokies?
- The use of all park roads will remain toll-free for those passing through
- Parking tags will not be required for motorists who pass through the area
- Parking tags will also not be required for motorists who park vehicles for less than fifteen minutes
How much are the camping fees?
The approved camping fees are:
- $8 per night for Backcountry camping fees; with a maximum of $40 per camper
- $30 per night for Frontcountry family campsite fees for primitive sites
- $36 per night for Frontcountry sites with electrical hookups
- Fees for group camps, horse camps, and picnic pavilions will primarily increase by between 20-30% depending on group size and location, according to the park
- Rates for daily rental of the Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin in Elkmont will be $300 and $200, respectively.
GSMNP officials say the park receives around $4-5 million a year through revenue from camping fees, concession fees, and donations.
Where can I buy the parking tag or pay camping fees?
Starting March 1, the new “Park It Forward” parking passes will be available online as well as at area visitor centers and parking kiosks at select locations within the Smokies.
Smokies officials say with rising costs and more visitation, “additional revenue is critical to support upkeep of the park. The new fee changes will provide an opportunity for park users to directly contribute towards protecting the park.”
A full explainer from the National Park Service regarding the “Park It Forward” fee program in the Smokies and supporting data is available here.