KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Required parking passes for 2023 season are on sale now for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The tags will be required on March 1 on any vehicle parking for more than 15 minutes.
Three options are available: An annual tag for $40 is for sale on the Great Smoky Mountains Association page and at any of the park’s visitor centers. In February, the park will begin offering a weekly pass for $15, and a daily pass for $5.
The first run of annual parking tags has already sold out and preorders are available for a second run that is expected to ship on February 1 according to the Great Smoky Mountains Association.
The passes will be required beginning Wednesday, March 1, Annual tags purchased before March 1 are valid through March 2024.
“Anyone that has a handicap hanging tag or a handicapped license plate tag, they are not required to have a parking tag and that’s true if your parking outside anywhere in Tennessee or North Carolina. Those are state laws that we cannot charge handicapped for parking, so we’re in alignment with our state laws,” said Dana Soehn with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The use of park roads will remain toll-free for those just passing through the Smokies, so parking passes or tags will not be required for them; parking tags will also not be required for motorists who happen to park their vehicles in the park for less than 15 minutes.
“Park it Forward is crucial to the future of the park and its resources,” Cassius Cash, GSMNP superintendent, said. “Parking tag sales will provide critically needed support to protect and enhance the visitor experience, not just for tomorrow, but for generations to come.”
The Smokies is one of the only national parks prohibited by law from charging visitors an entrance fee. So needed revenue must be generated through parking and other fees. Find a full list of fees.
Some ‘Parking Tag Basics’ about the parking passes or tags were shared by NPS on the Great Smoky Mountains page:
- 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 within the Smokies’ boundaries.
- Parking tags will not be required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes.
It’s worth noting that the Smokies park will be participating in the five NPS fee-free days, when all NPS sites that charge entrance fees will offer free admission to everyone. Those dates are listed by NPS this year as Jan. 16, April 22, Aug. 4, Sept. 23 and Nov. 11.
“Park It Forward” tag revenue will support operational costs for managing and improving services for visitors to the Smokies.
Smokies officials said in August 2022 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.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information.