You are here

Great Smoky Mountains National Park To Implement Backcountry Fee In February


Planning to backpack through Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Beginning February 13 you'll need to pay for the privilege as the park implements a user fee to help cover costs for managing its backcountry program.

The cost will be $4 per night per person, a cost some find unreasonable but which the park moved forward with after a lengthy public involvement process. Park officials say they'll use the fee money to provide increased customer service for backcountry trip planning, reservations, permits and the backcountry experience.

A park-specific reservation and permit system, to which users will have 24/7 access, will go live on February 13. It will allow backcountry campers to make reservations and obtain permits online from anywhere Internet access is available. Reservations may be made at any time up to 30 days in advance, allowing maximum flexibility for those making last minute plans.

Appalachian Trail thru-hikers may obtain a permit through the reservation system up to 30 days in advance of the date they anticipate being in the park and are required to carry a paper copy with them while they are hiking through the park. Their permit is valid up to 38 days from the date they obtain it.

Thru-Hikers have eight days (7 nights) to get through the park, and a break to rest or resupply in a nearby town does not negate one’s standing as a thru-hiker. There is a $20 cost for the Thru-Hiker Backcountry Permit.

"It is important to note that to qualify for an AT Thru-Hiker Permit, a person must begin and end their hike at least 50 miles from outside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and only travel on the AT while in the park," park spokeswoman Molly Schroer said. "Anyone who does not meet these criteria will need to get a General Backcountry Permit."

Backcountry users will no longer be required to call the Backcountry Office to obtain reservations. Reservation and permit requests will also be accepted in person at the Backcountry Office, which is located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Backcountry Office hours will be expanded with additional staff available to provide trip planning assistance both over the phone and in person. In addition, the park will expand its backcountry ranger presence to better protect park resources through enforcement of food-storage and other regulations and improved visitor education regarding Leave-No-Trace principles.

For more information about the changes, please visit the park’s website and follow the "Management" link on the left side of the page, or call the park’s Public Information Office at 865-436-1207. For general backcountry information or backcountry reservations, call the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.


This thread is being closed to comments due to a disregard for Traveler's Code of Conduct and two requests for civility.

ec, AT details in fourth and fifth grafs.

And SmokiesBackpacker and SmokyMountainMan, I've already asked for civility once...

ad hominum attacks and name calling and I'm the disturbed one? My offer still stands to discuss this face to face. I don't care if you spend more nights in the park than is legal. I don't think there should be a limit on the number of nights you spend in the backcountry.

ECbuck, AT thru hikers will have to pay a 20 dollar flat rate, making the Smokies the only place on the AT that requires a credit card. The ATC originally came out against the fee but Ditmanson gave them a house to stage operations from the Soak Ash land donation and that bought their silence.

How will this affect AT thru hikers?

Where did I say that I spend more than 60 nights in the backcountry? I said I spent about a month in the backcountry wandering around. I was just slightly under half way to making the quota limit, and everytime I have a legal permit. As you usually do you twist things around, like a true misguided sociopath. For those that have reading comprehension problems, read again:

11. Will there be a change to the annual maximum number of nights one can stay in the backcountry?

The park regulation limiting overnight backcountry stays to 30 nights per trip and 60 nights per year will not change. Permits may be obtained for up to 7 nights. Additional permits may be obtained for those wanting to camp more than 7 nights at one time.

This post was edited to remove a gratuitous remark/link.--Ed.

Smkymtn dude,

By your own admission you have just violated the backcountry policy which stipulates you may only spend 60 days in the Smokies backcountry per calendar year. I guess we do need rangers to educate folks like you about the rules. Genius.

You're delusional. I've come to the conclusion, that you really need a girlfriend. And no, my name is not Kevin.

3. How will customer service be improved?

• Park Ranger's assigned solely to backcountry patrol will provide enhanced enforcement for issues such as wildlife violations and food storage

Dont have to troll read hard to find a real one in you, SmokyMtnman. Let me know whenever you would like to sit down and discuss this in person. I know it won't happen because you have been given the same offer by others on the forums in which you have shown up with multiple aliases. Best just go back and enjoy the retirement we are paying for you, Kevin. Depositions are coming soon.

Reminds me of the maxim that if you repeat a lie long enough, people will believe it. If you are caught publicly saying that the fee is going to fund backcountry rangers as we have copies that it has been said on multiple forums, when the internal documents clearly contradict that fact, it could get real sticky for you mr. mountaineer.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments