What to know about the Great Smoky Mountains National park brand new parking tag requirements


Traditionally, the Smoky Mountains have been free to enter. However, the national park is now implementing the Park it Forward parking tag program which started on March 1st, 2023

The new program will implement a new parking fee and also increase camping fees.

It is meant to help generate revenue to improve visitor services, address maintenance needs, and even fund emergency services. While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been historically free to enter, visitation has put a strain on management and upkeep.

The park experienced its second busiest year ever in 2022 with 12,937,633 visits, the highest visited park in the country. The Smokies area receives more visitation than Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks combined! 

What does this mean?

The Park it Forward program will require visitors to purchase and display a tag for any vehicle parking within the national park for more than 15 minutes.The Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not have an entrance fee, so simply entering the park and driving around will not require a pass.

A pass is only required if you plan on parking for more than 15 minutes.The park will use these funds to protect resources and maintain trails, roads, historic structures and facilities.

The parking tags will cost $5 daily or $15 weekly. Parking tags will be available for purchase both online and onsite.


For example, guests can purchase weekly or daily parking passes at recreation.gov as well as automated fee machines that will be available year-round, 24 hours a day at several locations around the park.


There is also a $40 annual parking tag available for purchase through the Great Smoky Mountains Association. These tags will be shipped to your home. The annual tag option is ideal for local residents who want year-round, repeated access to the park.


Note that guests will need to enter their license plate number at the time of purchase.


Finally, all parking tag types will be available for purchase at some of the park’s visitor centers across Tennessee and North Carolina, including:


Gatlinburg Welcome Center

Sugarlands Visitor Center

Townsend Visitor Center

Cades Cove Visitor Center

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Store

Clingmans Dome Visitor Center

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Swain County Visitor Center


Annual tags should be displayed on the lower passenger side windshield. Weekly and daily tags will need to be displayed face-up on the front, lower passenger side dashboard.


Finally, the parking tag options and prices apply to all vehicles, including motorcycles, UTVs and RVs.


However, the NPS will participate in fee-free days, so guests will not need to display a parking tag on the following days:

January 16 (Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday)

April 22 (first day of National Park Week)

August 4 (anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act)

September 23 (National Public Lands Day)

November 11 (Veterans Day)


Thank you for reading and help us continue to support the Smoky Mountains by keeping it safe and clean. 


Audrey Carlson

Mountain Time Cabin Rentals