Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA)
What is a CUA?
A commercial use authorization is a business permit with the National Park Service that authorizes an individual, group, company, or other for-profit entity to conduct commercial activities and provide specific visitor services within a national park area. The National Park Service will only issue CUAs for commercial activities and visitor services that:
- are determined to be an appropriate use of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
- will have minimal impact on Great Smoky Mountains National Park's resources and values, and
- are consistent with Great Smoky Mountains National Park's purpose, management plans, policies, and regulations.
A CUA is required if you—as an individual, organization, or company—provide any goods, activities, services, agreements, or other function for members, clients, or the public that:
- take place at least in part in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
- use park resources, and
- result in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit.
Businesses and individuals may not conduct commercial activities in the park without a valid CUA or in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the CUA.
CUA Services Offered
Guide Services—Hiking, Backpacking, and Fishing: Defined as one or more persons travelling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced, or sold for leisure/recreational purposes and takes place along waterways (fishing), roadways (biking), or in the backcountry more than ¼ mile from the nearest trailhead (hiking/backpacking).
Frontcountry Educational Workshops—Photography, Wildlife: Defined as one or more persons travelling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced, or sold for educational/recreational purposes and takes place along the overlooks, historic areas, roadways, or within ¼ mile of the trailhead on any designated trail.
Backcountry Educational Workshops—Photography, Wildlife: Defined as one or more persons travelling on an itinerary that has been packaged, priced, or sold for educational/recreational purposes and a portion of the trip takes place in a backcountry area more than ¼ mile from the trailhead on any designated trail.
Portrait Photography & Wedding Services: Portrait photographers are defined as photographers that are hired (receiving compensation) to take portraits (photos) of individuals. This includes engagment photography, student and family portraits, and documentary style portraiture. All weddings require an additional Wedding Special Use permit.
Transportation Services: Defined as the service of providing one or more persons direct transportation to and/or from a park trailhead by vehicle or boat for compensation or as a part of a larger package of recreation/lodging services.
Emergency Road Service and Towing
CUA Application Process
To apply or request additional information about CUA permits, please email Jamie Sanders.
- Processing time for CUA permits can take four or more weeks depending on the time of year, so please plan accordingly. All applications will be processed in the order in which they are received. Please submit all required documents in one application packet. Any incomplete applications will be placed on hold until all required documents are received.
- If you are a CUA holder who provides multiple services in the park—for example, your company provides both overnight backpacking and transportation services—you will be required to get two CUAs to cover both services.
Several concessioners provide commercial services for visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Services provided by concessioners are those that have been determined to be necessary and appropriate for public use and enjoyment of the park. Services provided by concessioners in the park include horseback riding, carriage rides, hayrides, bicycle rental, campground convenience items, and backcountry food and lodging.
Concessioners operate under concession contracts that are awarded periodically through a competitive selection process. The opportunity to compete for award of a concession contract is published in a prospectus that is available to the public.