Park continues efforts to eliminate unsafe roadside parking at Laurel Falls Trailhead 

by Jun 8, 2022General Announcements0 comments


Great Smoky Mountains National Park staff will continue efforts to eliminate unsafe roadside parking at Laurel Falls Trailhead. Temporary roadside barriers will be re-established during the busy summer season through fall, beginning Thursday, June 9 through Sunday, Oct. 30. Unofficial parking will be blocked with temporary barriers, such as traffic cones, during this time. Visitor use management strategies such as permanent roadside parking barriers, parking reservation systems, and shuttle systems continue to be considered as a part of the Laurel Falls Trail Management Plan Environmental Assessment (EA).

Laurel Falls Trail continues to be one of the most popular trails in the park, drawing a high level of use that has resulted in extreme congestion, crowding at the falls, and unsafe conditions along Little River Road. Vehicles parked along the roadside obstruct the flow of traffic and create blind spots for motorists, resulting in a significant safety hazard for visitors walking to or from their vehicles. Roadside parking also impacts adjacent habitats, damages road edges, and causes erosion.

Data collected at Laurel Falls trailhead show that there are frequently more than 100 cars parking outside of official parking areas, typically along the road shoulder. Visitors planning to hike to Laurel Falls should come prepared with alternative destinations in case they do not find parking available at the site.  Avoiding arriving during peak visitation periods, usually between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., can also help improve chances of obtaining a safe parking space within designated parking areas.

With more than 800 miles of trails across the park, visitors are encouraged to pre-plan to choose a less congested area of the park to visit during peak time periods. Backcountry Office staff are available 7 days a week to provide trip planning guidance in person and via phone at (865) 436-1297. Visitors may also receive in-person guidance at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee Visitor Centers. For more information about congestion monitoring in the park, please visit the park website at

  • National Park Service release