Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National announced today that effective February 13, 2013 they will implement a $4 person fee for camping in backcountry sites throughout the Park. As reported last March, the National Park Service approved the Park’s proposal to begin collecting fees for use of the Park’s backcountry campsites and shelters “to provide enhanced customer service for backcountry trip planning, reservations, permits and the backcountry experience”.
Changes to the current backcountry reservation and permitting process will also include the implementation of an online reservation system, which will also begin on February 13th. The reservation and permit system will be park-specific, and will allow backcountry users to access the system 24/7 anywhere internet access is available. With the new system reservations can be made at any time up to 30 days in advance, allowing maximum flexibility for those making last minute plans. In addition to the online system visitors will also be able to obtain reservations and permits in person from the Backcountry Office located at Sugarlands Visitor Center during daytime hours.
Fees from the new reservation system will allow additional staff and expanded hours for the Backcountry Office to provide trip planning assistance in person and by phone. The fees will also expand the Backcountry Ranger presence to better protect visitors and the 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 at www.nps.gov/grsm 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. On February 13, backcountry reservations and permits will be available at www.smokiespermits.nps.gov.