Smokies LIVE Blog

Things to consider when planning a visit to the Smokies

UPDATE: As of Friday, January 11, Cades Cove Visitor Center, which is located halfway around Loop Road near Townsend, TN, will reopen to visitors. Great Smoky Mountains Association is responsible for staffing the visitor center, where vital park information and educational products and services can be found.

  1. The park’s primary visitor centers at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee are closed, as are the restrooms located adjacent to each.
  2. However, visitor centers operated in partnership with our gateway communities and Great Smoky Mountains Association located outside the park are open. These are located in Gatlinburg and Townsend in Tennessee and in downtown Bryson City in North Carolina.
  3. Each of the open visitor centers gives you access to the same information, products and services as the inside-the-park visitor centers. Find directions to each HERE.
  4. Each of the open visitor centers provides clean restrooms and trash receptacles for your convenience.
  5. With very few opportunities to dispose of trash inside the national park, it is strongly requested that “Pack It Out” measures are taken by all.
  6. When you see trash left behind by others, go above and beyond and pack it out, too. You’ll feel good about helping our national treasures and the delicate ecosystems found within.
  7. While most roads and trails are open, accessing either is done so at your own risk during the government shutdown. Critical personnel are not readily available to respond to emergencies.

In an effort to address troubling sanitation concerns occurring at Newfound Gap and in Cades Cove, the restrooms in these areas are currently being maintained. However, it is unclear how long funding will remain available for this effort.

If you are not currently planning a trip to the Smokies but feel moved to support our mission here, please consider becoming a member or renewing your membership, making a donation to our Legacy Fund and making purchases of ranger-approved products at our physical locations and on our web store.

Great Smoky Mountains Association was able to step in and help keep our national park open during the busy visitation time between Christmas and New Year’s Day because of our loyal supporters and members. We thank you!

With you, we look forward to the day when our elected officials see fit to once again fully fund the management of our public lands. These unique, iconic places were set aside and meant to exist in perpetuity for today visitors and all future generations of Americans and citizens of the world. 

Photos by Charlene Shiver


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Great Smokies

Welcome Center

Hours of Operation

(subject to change)

Open year round (closed December 25)

January - February

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

March - November

Open Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Great Smokies Welcome Center is located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can get information about things to see and do in and around the national park and shop from a wide selection of books, gifts, and other Smokies merchandise. Daily, weekly, and annual parking tags for the national park are also available.

Physical Address

7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway Townsend TN 37882


865.436.7318 Ext 320