Smoky Mountains NP Implementing Pilot Parking Program at Laurel Falls
If you plan to visit Laurel Falls inside the Smoky Mountains National Park, you're going to need to make a parking reservation thanks to a new pilot program the park is trying out.
One of the goals of the pilot program is to eliminate roadside parking by visitors wishing to visit Laurel Falls. The National Parks Services' desire to provide a high-quality visitor experience has become a challenge they say, because of an increase in visitation.
Since 2009, annual visitation to the Smokies has increased by 32%, resulting in congested roadways, overflowing parking lots, roadside soil erosion, vegetation trampling, and long lines at restroom and visitor center facilities. Meanwhile, staffing levels have decreased, and funding have remained flat over the last ten years.
After conduction eight virtual workshops that began in October 2020 and with more than 200 visitors participants, in addition to the feedback received from 600 people from 28 states via the Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) system, it was determined that the Laurel Falls Trail was of particular concern to visitors of the park. In particular, roadside parking, vehicular congestion, and pedestrian safety were all concerns of those who had visited the park.
How to Make a Parking Reservation - FAQ
The "Laurel Falls Trail Congestion Management Pilot" will be in place from September 7, 2021 through October 2, 2021 and will include a "timed entry parking reservation ticket system" meaning you will need a reservation to park your vehicle to visit Laurel Falls. That system will begin August 24th at a cost of $14 per vehicle. You can make your parking reservation by visiting Recreation.gov. If you prefer to not park at the trail, parking lot, there is still trail access through a commercially operated shuttle service based in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with shuttles running approximately every 30 minutes. You can book your shuttle reservation at RockTopTours.
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