Frequently Asked Questions: Park Field Trips


Here are some of our most common questions received from teachers. Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions.

Q: How much does the program cost?

A: All programs are free thanks to support from Friends of the Smokies and Smokies Life. Some years, we have small stipends available to schools to offset the costs of transportation to the park. Email us to find out if you are eligible

Q: How do I sign up for the programs?

A: To request a program, please email or call the Education Branch with your request (NC: 828-497-1907, TN: 865-436-1258)

Q: How do I know I have the field trip date I asked for?

A: We ask for your top three dates and try to give you your first choice if possible. We will contact you for date confirmation via phone and/or email as soon as we have you on our calendar. Please allow us a few days to respond to your request.

Q: What happens if the weather turns bad?

A: Depending on the age group and location of the field trip, we may encourage the trip to go on as planned. Some field trip locations have indoor or covered spaces that allow us to modify the program but not lose any of the thematic instruction. For younger aged groups or locations that don't have shelter, we will be in communication with you the evening before or the morning of your trip to decide whether or not to cancel. We will try to reschedule the trip when possible. If the fieldtrip is cancelled in the fall season, we can put your class at the top of the list for the following spring season. We do cancel programs in the event of thunderstorms. Students should wear appropriate footwear and clothing for an extended outdoor program. Short pants, flip flops, or sandals are not recommended. Temperatures in the mountains can be 10-15° Fahrenheit colder than at your school. Be prepared to alter portions of your program should inclement weather occur.

Q: I have special needs students. Can we still do a field trip?

A: Many of our programs are accessible to mobility impaired individuals but some are not. Several of our programs require hiking up steep hills on uneven terrain. With joint pre-planning, we can usually make accommodations for all students. Please let us know of any accomodations needed when scheduling your program.

Q: How will the field trip enhance my classroom instruction?

A: All of our programs are aligned with the Standard Course of Study for either North Carolina or Tennessee. This ensures that we are able to reinforce content that you are using in the classroom while meeting our own goals of educating students about special park resources.

Q: Are rangers available to come into my classroom?

A: During our spring and fall field trip season we don't have staff available to come into the classroom. We do offer a special winter program called Parks In the Classroom. For more information on this program, email or call the Education Branch (TN: 865-436-1258, NC: 828-497-1907).

Q: Are restrooms and water fountains available?

A: Restrooms and water fountains are located at developed areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, and visitor centers. Never drink untreated water from a stream or spring source.

Q: How do we plan our lunches?

A: Some of the programs require the students to carry their lunches with them while others programs allow lunches to be left on the bus in coolers. The park staff will review the logistics with you directly. Teachers should bring garbage bags for waste as trash receptacles may not be available. Lunches may not be eaten within 100 feet of historic structures. This helps to protect them from food messes which attract rodents and other animals. For safety, never leave food unattended unless it is contained in a closed vehicle (such as a bus).

Q: How large of a group can I bring?

A: Most programs can accommodate 50 students. Certain locations are more suitable than others for accommodating large group sizes. If you are uncertain if a location will accommodate the number of students in your group, please email or call the Education Branch (TN: 865-436-1258, NC: 828-497-1907).

Q: Are there areas where buses can't go?

A: Buses are prohibited on some secondary roads in the park, including Balsam Mountain Road, Heintooga Ridge Road, Parson Branch Road, Rich Mountain Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and the road exiting the park at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Caution is also advised when traveling on Little River Road between the Townsend entrance to the park and Elkmont Campground, and on the road leading into Cataloochee Valley. Please download and read through the Tour Bus Guide for additional information.

Q: Do cell phones work in the park?

A: Cell phone coverage is not reliable in the park’s mountainous terrain. Be sure to stick to your agenda. In case of emergency, if you have cell phone reception, call 911. For non-emergencies, contact park rangers at (865) 436-1230. If you do not have phone reception, contact the nearest park employee and they can assist using the park's radio communication system.

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Last updated: February 27, 2024

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107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738



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