Traffic & Travel Tips

Plan Like a Ranger - How to Avoid the Crowds

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is consistently the most visited national park in the country. It lies within a day’s drive of more than half the U.S. population. Here are some tips to help you #PlanLikeARanger!
2024 calendar displaying predicted congestion levels.
2024 Congestion Forecasting Calendar
Flexible on Dates? Choose When to Come Wisely
Check out the 2024 congestion forecasting calendar to help you choose when to visit the park and know what to expect during your visit.
  • Green Circle Days - On green circle days, roadways are not predicted to be very congested, and parking is likely to be available at most destinations.

  • Yellow Triangle Days - On yellow triangle days, we predict moderate congestion and many full parking lots across the park.

  • Red Diamond Days - On red diamond days, we predict heavily congested roadways and completely full parking lots at most destinations.

    The forecasted calendar is based on historic traffic counter data. The calendar represents data-driven predictions, but on the ground conditions may vary from these predictions due to many complex factors.

Graph showing hours of the day on the x (horizontal)axis and vehicle arrivals on the y (vertical) axis. Peak arrival time is between 10 and 11 AM.
Chart showing hours of the day on the horizontal axis and vehicle entry volume of the vertical axis.
Consider Arrival Time
Maybe you know which dates you plan to visit, but have you thought about planning what time of day your visit should begin? Most visitors arrive between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Instead, opt for an earlier or later start and you will have better chances of finding a parking spot at your destination of choice. Late afternoon hikes can be a great way to avoid the crowds - just make sure you have enough daylight for your adventure!
Images of a trailhead with a crowded parking lot in the background.
Cars fill the parking lot at Laurel Falls.
Have a Back-Up Plan
You are a planner, we get it! If you want to truely #PlanLikeARanger, you will have not one, but two (or more plans). Parking is limited. You may not find legal parking at your destination of choice. But with 848 miles of trails, 384 miles of roads, 126 historic structures and 11 picnic areas - there are always uncrowded destinations in the Smokies to explore! Think about the goals of your visit to identify alternative plans.
  • Interested in a waterfall? Hike Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls instead of Laurel Falls
  • Interested in iconic views? Try Look Rock Tower instead of Clingmans Dome
Image of visitors inside a shuttle.
Ride a Shuttle
Don't stress about finding parking. Arrive at your destination of choice, at your time of choice. Relax and enjoy a shuttle ride from local communities to park destinations. Most shuttle services run March through October.

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738



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