National Park Sign
March 20, 2024

More than 10 million visitors come to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year. They love the fresh air, stunning natural scenery, and rich history. If you’re currently planning your first visit, you’re in for a treat. Take a moment to learn more about the area! Explore this list of 3 things to know about visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

1. There Is a Parking Fee

The National Park Service (NPS) wants to keep the beauty of the Smokies accessible to everyone. While there is no charge for admission, the NPS did introduce a parking fee in March 2023. Visitors can choose from a daily, weekly, or yearly parking pass for very reasonable costs. The money funds the park’s facilitation needs, so it will stay beautiful for years to come. It is important to note that you do not need a parking pass if you park your vehicle for 15 minutes or less. That means if you’re taking a scenic drive and don’t plan to stop for long, you don’t need a parking tag!

2. Pets Are Only Allowed in Certain Areas


If you bring Fido on vacation, we believe that he should get to enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains too. This is why we have pet-friendly areas in the Smoky Mountains National Park. On the Tennessee side of the park, the Gatlinburg Trail is a flat 3.9-mile route. It contains one of the longest footbridges in the park. As for the North Carolina side, the Oconaluftee River Trail is a 3-mile route and has a similar terrain. Some notable sights include the 40 species of wildflowers that bloom along the trail every spring. In addition to these trails, dogs are also allowed in the picnic areas, campgrounds, and along roads in the park. They must be kept on a short leash (no more than 6 feet) at all times. It is important to remember that dogs are prohibited in all other areas of the park. This is because of the steep terrain on a lot of the trails as well as the wildlife.

3. There Are 2 Types of Campgrounds

Sometimes, a few hours in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not enough. To spend even more time here, you can go camping! When planning a camping trip in the Smokies, visitors can choose between 2 two types of campgrounds. Frontcountry campgrounds are open year-round. Campers stay close to their vehicle and have access to restrooms with cold running water. Each campground also has a fire grate and a picnic table. Some of them have food lockers as well. Some popular frontcountry campgrounds include Cades Cove, Smokemont, and Elkmont. On the other hand, if you want to venture out even further into the wilderness, you can hike several miles to one of the backcountry campgrounds. Unlike the frontcountry campgrounds, they close for the winter season.

We hope you enjoyed this helpful information about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you want to know even more about the area before your visit, check out our other list of 5 of the most popular places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!