Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains
Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on August 24, 2022
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a rarity within our country's national park system. It's the most visited of them all, and it's one of the few that doesn't require an admission fee. That was a stipulation attached to one of the early land donations that helped create GSMNP in the early decades of the 20th century.
And although admission fees per se still won't be required in years to come, folks planning to visit the national park next year will have to fork over a few dollars for the privilege of parking within it. Park supervisors have created the Park It Forward program, which will institute parking fees and also increase camping fees beginning in 2023.
Parking tags will be required on any motor vehicle parked within the park boundary as of March 1. The rates will be $5 for a daily parking tag, $15 for a tag that's valid for as many as seven days and $40 for an annual parking tag. All revenue will stay within the park, to help provide sustainable, year-round funding geared toward improving the visitor experience as well as protecting natural resources and maintaining trails, roads, historic structures and facilities.
“Today marks a significant milestone in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I'm honored to be a part of it,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “I have been incredibly encouraged by all the support - from across the country and especially here in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina - for the opportunity to invest in the future care of this treasured park. We take great pride in being the country's most visited national park, but that distinction comes with tremendous strain on our infrastructure. Now we will have sustained resources to ensure this sacred place is protected for visitors to enjoy for generations to come.”
While there will be a charge for parking anywhere within the park, the use of all roads will remain toll-free. Also, no parking fees will be charged for motorists parking for less than 15 minutes. So if you simply want to pull over onto a scenic overlook to take in the views, you may still do so at no cost. Purchasing a parking tag, however, will not guarantee a parking spot at any specific location, and all parking will continue to be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
While some park visitors may not look kindly upon the parking fees and increases in camping rates, the additional revenue is critical to the upkeep of the park, especially as both maintenance costs and visitation have increased in recent years. The new fees will provide an opportunity for park users to contribute directly to its protection and viability in the years to come.
Back in the spring, park administrators first announced the upcoming changes, and they solicited feedback from the public. Based on thousands of responses from all over the country, more than 85 percent expressed either strong support for the changes or included constructive ideas to improve the program, according to GSMNP officials.
As for camping fees, the new rates will be $30 per night for primitive sights and $36 per night for sites with electrical hookups. Backcountry fees will be $8 per night, with a maximum of $40 per camper. Group camps, horse camps and picnic pavilion fees will increase by 20 to 30 percent, depending on group size and location. Rates for renting the Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin in Elkmont will be $300 and $200, respectively.
Of the previously mentioned feedback responses that related specifically to camping, 78 percent expressed support for backcountry fee increases, and 82 percent supported the frontcountry fee increases.
We hope that visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2023 embrace these new changes, as they will help the park maintain its status as one of the great destinations within the park system. In the meantime, our Smoky Mountain zip line attraction will be here to provide an alternate outdoor experience in the mountains. And we do offer free parking.