Today is the first day Great Smoky Mountains National Park is using its “Park it Forward” program.
The program calls for a valid parking tag to be displayed in all vehicles that are parked for more than 15 minutes.
“We owe a huge thanks to our park neighbors, communities, partners, and visitors for their support and feedback for this important and historic program,” Cassius Cash, Great Smoky Mountains’ superintendent, said in a statement. “Park it Forward will undoubtedly help protect the park resources and enhance visitors’ experiences in a substantial way now and into the future.”
Daily parking tags, which cost $5, and $15 weekly parking tags can be purchased at Recreation.gov and by credit card at machines in several locations throughout Great Smoky Mountains.
Alternatively, a $40 annual parking tag can be purchased online through the Great Smoky Mountains Association.
All parking tag types can also be purchased at several store locations throughout Great Smoky Mountains.
Importantly, all revenue generated through the Park it Forward program will remain in the park. It will be used to support Great Smoky Mountains’ operational costs to manage and improve visitor services such as trail maintenance, custodial services, and trash removal, the National Park Service (NPS) explains.
Revenue from the program will also be used “to support more resource education programs, emergency responders, and law enforcement staff across the park,” the NPS continues.
How The Program Works
As you would expect, there are some important points about using the parking tags that you’ll need to keep in mind.
For instance, having a parking tag does not guarantee you’ll be able to find a parking spot at all locations. Instead, parking will continue to be available on a first come, first served basis throughout the park.
“Visitors should plan ahead when visiting busy locations like Laurel Falls Trail or Clingmans Dome by considering visiting during off-peak hours, mid-week, and during the cooler months to increase the chances of securing a parking spot,” the NPS explains.
It should also be noted that parking tags will not be required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes.
However, keep in mind that vehicles in parking lots associated with commercial services are not exempt from the parking tag requirement, and having a picnic pavilion reservation does not exempt vehicles from the parking tag requirement either.
While the parking tag requirement does apply to backcountry campers, front-country campers’ vehicles do not need a parking tag if they are parked at their designated campsite. That said, if the vehicle is parked anywhere else in the park for more than 15 minutes, it will need a parking tag.
Finally, in case you’re wondering, the NPS also spells out how the requirement will be enforced.
“Failure to comply with the parking tag requirements may result in a warning, a citation, or your vehicle being towed at your expense,” the NPS explains. “A variety of staff positions will assist in raising awareness of the program through presence across the park.”
How To Display A Parking Tag
Visitors must print their parking tags. Digital representations will not be accepted and park staff will not print parking tags.
Daily and weekly parking tags must be placed face-up on the vehicle’s passenger-side dashboard.
The annual parking tags must be displayed in the lower section of the passenger side windshield.
You can find more details about the parking tags and the Park it Forward program on Great Smoky Mountains’ Fees & Passes webpage.
Be sure to also read all of our Great Smoky Mountains National Park content, including: