Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association to Fund Weekend Visitor Center Openings Through Presidents’ Day


UPDATE: With the end of the partial government shutdown announced on Friday, January 25, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reopened its visitor center facilities to the public. However, due to more than a month’s absence, park rangers and other NPS employees will require time to get fully up to speed with programs and services. 

Friends of the Smokies announced today (Thursday, Jan. 25) that the organization will continue funding to temporarily reopen Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN, and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., on weekends through Presidents’ Day, Monday, Feb. 18, if needed due to a continuation of the partial government shutdown.

Both visitor centers will open from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on the following days:

Friday – Sunday, January 25-27

Friday – Sunday, February 1-3

Friday – Sunday, February 8-10

Thursday – Monday, February 14-18

“We recognize the need to provide information and visitor services during the shutdown, and we are committed to bridging those gaps with additional funding where necessary,” Friends of the Smokies Executive Director Tim Chandler said. “The partnership between Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association and the National Park Service means that visitors can receive information that better prepares them for visiting and caring for this special place.”

Friends of the Smokies will provide funds to reopen and maintain the visitor centers and restroom facilities. Funding for these temporary openings will be provided in addition to the $2.7 million the organization has committed for park projects in 2019. Park rangers will be present to provide information services to park visitors. Great Smoky Mountains Association will staff park stores at both locations. All GSMA sales support Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Friends of the Smokies are true friends indeed,” said Laurel Rematore, Chief Executive Officer of Great Smoky Mountains Association. “We are so grateful for Friends’ continued funding. GSMA staff members and the National Park Service rangers look forward to greeting visitors in the coming weekends and equipping them with the information and materials they need to enjoy the park. Ours is truly a remarkable partnership.”

In addition to operating visitor center bookstores inside the park boundary, GSMA operates similar facilities in Townsend and Gatlinburg, both in TN, and in downtown Bryson City, N.C. Each of these facilities continues to maintain regular business hours and have not been impacted by the shutdown.

At the direction of the National Park Service, federal funds generated by recreation fees continue to be used to clean and maintain restrooms at Newfound Gap, Cable Mill in Cades Cove, Smokemont Campground and Deep Creek Picnic Area. This federal funding also allowed the reopening of Cades Cove Campground and Picnic Area, including restrooms, and maintenance of Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Townsend Wye and Foothills Parkway East. The visitor center at Cable Mill in Cades Cove is currently open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. using this federal funding with staffing provided by GSMA.

Friends of the Smokies is an official nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has raised $62 million to support critical park programs in North Carolina and Tennessee. Discover and donate at

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. A non-profit organization, GSMA has provided more than $42 million to the park during its 65-year history.

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