Smokies to require parking passes beginning next March
Published 1:27 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022
Beginning next March, visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park will need to purchase a parking pass to use the facilities.
Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in an interview the fee is needed to keep up with maintenance and staffing demands at the country’s most visited national park. The Smokies have seen a 57% increase in visitors over the past decade with a record 14.1 million visits in 2021. However, appropriations aren’t based on visitations and have remained relatively flat, Cash said.
Due to a combination of deed restrictions and federal law, the park is not allowed to charge an entrance fee, so Cash said they had to look at other ways to increase revenue. In addition to the parking passes, the park is increasing camping fees. All the money raised will go directly into park staffing, deferred maintenance and operations, Cash said. That includes things as basic as keeping the restrooms clean, picking up trash and maintaining the roads.