Great Smoky Mountains Backcountry Permits


Parking is limited and obtaining a parking tag does not guarantee a parking spot at a specific location.  Parking is available on a first-come, first-serve basis throughout the park.  Backcountry users should plan to arrive early in the morning to secure a parking spot for their intended backcountry itinerary, especially at the busier trailheads in the park - including but not limited to: Laurel Falls, Alum Cave, Deep Creek, Big Creek, Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, Rainbow Falls, and trailheads along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. 

Proper food storage in the backcountry is critical.  Backpackers must hang all food/scented items on the cable system regardless of what type of container they are in.  Bear canisters are not required nor recommended in the backcountry.  If you choose to carry a bear canister, it must be placed in your pack and hung in the cable system to comply with the park requirement. 

To make a change to a permit you have already purchased, please call the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297. You are not able to change the dates or itinerary of an existing permit online but Backcountry Office Staff can assist you.  

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Backcountry Permit

  • Backpackers are required to stay at designated campsites/shelters in the backcountry and all overnight stays in the backcountry require a permit.
  • IMPORTANT! To qualify for an AT Thru-Hiker Permit, you must begin and end your hike at least 50 miles outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park and only travel on the AT in the park. Backpackers not meeting this definition should obtain a General Backcountry Permit.
  • As of March 1, 2023, backpackers, including AT thru-hikers, who are planning to park a car in the park during their backcountry trip will need both a valid backcountry permit and appropriate parking tag.  If you are planning to park a car at a trailhead during your thru-hike, click here for more information about the parking tag.
  • Each thru-hiker must obtain an individual permit. 
  • The AT Thru-hiker Permit fee is $40.00 and is non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • You may obtain an AT Thru-hiker Permit up to 30 days in advance of the day you anticipate entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park and you must provide an estimated entry date for your permit.
  • A Thru-Hiker Permit is valid for up to 38 days from the date you obtain it. Thru-Hikers have 8 days to get through the Smokies. A break to rest or resupply in a nearby town does not negate one's standing as a thru-hiker.
  • You must have a paper copy of your permit with you at all times while hiking through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Please follow the instructions on your permit once you get to the park.
  • Thru-Hikers may tent in the immediate area around shelters only if the shelter is full. Thru-hikers are required to stay in shelters when there is space available. Thru-Hikers must always give up bunk space in shelters to those with shelter reservations.
  • You are responsible for compliance with all park regulations and are responsible for your own safety. Due to the popularity of the AT, it is critical that thru-hikers are diligent in following all regulations and consistently practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • The Backcountry Office is open daily, from 8 am to 5 pm Eastern Time (865-436-1297).

You may obtain an AT Thru-Hiker permit through this online permit system.  If you purchase a permit and then need to make a change to it, please call the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.  You are not able to make changes to an existing permit online but Backcountry Office Staff can assist you.  

Permits obtained through this system are issued by email. If you do not have an email address, please contact the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

All users should read through the information contained on the Things You Need to Know page before planning a trip and also download a copy of the park trail map before contacting the Backcountry Office for trip planning assistance. 

The Smokies backcountry is a mountainous, wilderness environment and is much more challenging than many people realize. Any backcountry trip, even a short one, involves risk and requires careful planning.

Please note that seasonal and weather-related road closures may affect your ability to access trailheads. Prior to starting your trip, please check the Road, Facility, and Backcountry Updates page and a weather forecast.  For updated road and weather information you can also call 865-436-1200 and once you hear a voice press 1, then press 1 for road information or 2 for weather forecast. Please remember that road and weather conditions change constantly. Be prepared for the unexpected!

Reservations for frontcountry campgrounds and horse camps are made through

Apply for a Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Backcountry Permit
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Backcountry Permits v3.5.106 - Last Update: January 31, 2023

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738


(865) 436-1200

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