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Beginning next March, visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park must buy parking pass

Summer Storms Smoky Mountains
Posted at 2:40 PM, Aug 17, 2022

Some changes are coming to a popular national park in Tennessee.

Beginning March 2023, visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have to buy a parking pass.

The new parking fees are $5 per day, $15 for a week, or $40 annually.

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a news release that it's part of a new initiative called Park It Forward, with the fees going towards maintaining the park and staffing demands.

"Over the past decade, park visitation has skyrocketed by 57%," Cash said in a statement. "Because the park’s operational budget hasn’t seen similar growth, the increase in visitors is starting to take its toll with wear and tear on aging facilities and undue strain on limited staff."

Cash said the new funding would "rehabilitate this national treasure and preserve the magic of the Smokies for future generations."

According to the Associated Press, the park is one of the nation's most popular, having drawn 14.1 million visitors last year.

Cash told the news outlet that those coming to the visitor center or needing to use the restroom would not need a pass.

Back in June, park officials issued a news release stating that roadside parking at Laurel Falls Trailhead would be blocked with temporary barriers such as traffic cones until the fall.

On Tuesday, a park spokesperson told the Asheville Citizen-Times that the park would eliminate roadside parking at trailheads along Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, Clingmans Dome Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Cherokee Orchard Road.