Great smoky mountains national park sign
July 9, 2022

One of the best things about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is that it doesn’t cost a thing to explore all the beauty it has to offer! While we’re sure you appreciate the fact that you can enjoy the park for free, have you ever wondered why there isn’t any entrance fee? We’re here to give you all the answers.

Newfound Gap Road

Newfound Gap Road Smoky Mountains

The reason there is no Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance fee has to do with Newfound Gap Road. Before the official chartering of the national park, Tennessee and North Carolina started working on a modern highway to connect the two states. Using money from the state governments and local communities, Newfound Gap Road was constructed. The road stretches from Gatlinburg, Tennessee all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina.

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, the two states transferred their ownership of Newfound Gap Road to the federal government. North Carolina transferred its land through abandonment, but Tennessee had a different idea. In the deed that signed the rights to Newfound Gap Road over to the federal government, Tennessee included a clause that stated “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed” to travel the road. This was because the state wanted to ensure that the creation of the national park did not interfere with interstate travel on the road. To this day, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the only national parks with no entrance fee.

Will There be a Fee in the Future?

It’s hard to be 100 percent certain if there will ever be a Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance fee or not, but, according to the original agreement, the only way the park could charge a fee is if Tennessee legislature is introduced that removes the eternal deed restriction. Since the national park contributes billions in annual revenue to the local economies, it is unlikely that the rule will ever change.

Where Does it Get its Funding?

grotto falls

You might be wondering where the park gets its funding if there is no Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance fee. The answer is that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s expenses are factored into the National Park Service’s annual budget. But to cover all the park’s educational programs, historical preservation efforts and repair work, it accepts donations from a number of nonprofit organizations like Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association!

What to Do When You Visit

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the best way to take in the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. There are more than 850 miles of hiking trails to explore, 2,900 miles of streams to fish in, picnic areas, scenic drives and so much more! And be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife when you visit! White-tailed deer and black bears are just some of the many animals you have the opportunity to spot in the park. Be sure to view our guide on how to see your favorite Smoky Mountain wildlife when you visit!

Take advantage of there being no Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance fee and plan your vacation to enjoy all that the park has to offer for free! Find out more fun facts about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and get ready for an amazing trip.