Parking Reservations Coming to the Laurel Falls Trailhead
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Starting on September 7, 2021 you’ll be required to make a reservation to park at the Laurel Falls trailhead in the national park. In order to better manage visitors and cut down on congestions on this popular trail, the park will be testing a reservation program through October 3, 2021:
Why Are Reservations Important?
With more than 375,000 visitors in 2020 alone, the Laurel Falls trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Smokies. Due to its popularity, Laurel Falls often experiences severe congestion, making it hard to navigate the trail and enjoy the gorgeous waterfall at the end of the hike. In order to reduce this congestion, improve visitor safety, better protect the park’s resources and enhance the overall hiking experience, the park decided to implement parking reservations.
After feedback from the public, the national park decided that managing parking through a reservation system would be the most effective way to solve the crowding problems throughout the trailhead. This new system is expected to spread use of the parking lot and trail more evenly through the day, solving a lot of the concerns addressed by the public.
Through at least October 3, trailhead parking will be provided by reservation only. Reservations last for 2-hour time blocks and cost $14 per car. Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov starting August 24. The Laurel Falls trailhead lot holds 14 spots and will be monitored by the national park staff throughout the day.
No parking will be allowed along Little River Road in an effort to avoid unsafe conditions. Vehicles parked along the road can slow the flow of traffic, creating even more congestion and unsafe conditions for those walking along the road to and from their cars, as well as blind-spots for other motorists.
If you would rather not pay for parking or make a reservation, we recommend using the shuttle from Rocky Top Tours. This shuttle makes a stop at the trailhead for a fee of $5 per person, perfect for solo hikers or small groups.
More About Laurel Falls
Considered moderate in difficulty, the Laurel Falls hike typically takes around 90 minutes to complete. Laurel Falls is one of the few trails in the Smokies that is paved, so it is considered one of the easier hikes to walk. At the end, you’ll be greeted with a beautiful 80-foot waterfall surrounded by lovely foliage. Walk across the small bridge to cross the stream and snag a few pictures at the base of the falls. Black bears are often seen in this area of the park, so if you come across one make sure to follow the proper steps to avoid contact with the bear.
Now that you know about the updated parking policies at the Laurel Falls trailhead, you can make your parking reservations soon. Are you interested in exploring other areas of the park? Check out all the fun things to do in the national park and begin planning your Smokies vacation today!