Is there free parking in Gatlinburg?

“Is there free parking in Gatlinburg?” has got to be one of the most asked questions when it comes to traveling in the Smoky Mountains National Park. Even though finding free parking in Gatlinburg can be tough, there are a couple of places.

Here’s a few ideas and the best free parking places in Gatlinburg:

Parking on River Road

This option is free, but parking spots are limited. This is always what we try first and, of course, going on off-hours always helps. 

These parking spaces are located next to the river along River Road which runs from Ripley’s Aquarium to the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Generally, spaces open up pretty often, so you may be able to get one if you circle around a couple times. In the summer months or during major events, you can count on these spaces staying full.

Free Park & Ride Lots in Gatlinburg
What You Need to Know About the Gatlinburg Trolley Service

When you are riding the Gatlinburg trolley, you can park at one of the free Park & Ride lots in Gatlinburg to catch a ride on the trolley. These lots are located at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center and the City Hall Complex on Highway 321.

Even though the Gatlinburg trolley isn’t free, it’s a cheaper alternative to parking in a paid lot.

Parking at Area Businesses

If you are planning to visit just a single restaurant or business, many offer free parking. For example, the Nantahala Outdoor Center as well as many area restaurants offer free parking in Gatlinburg at their location. The downside is that you can’t park there all day, so if you’re visiting Gatlinburg for the entire day, it would be better to park somewhere else. Otherwise, if you’re just leaving your cabin and heading out to dinner, plan to park at the restaurant while you eat.

Choosing a Paid Parking Lot in Gatlinburg

If you decide to pay for parking in Gatlinburg, it’s best to choose a single parking lot and park for the day. You can walk all over Gatlinburg and you can catch a trolley in many places, so you shouldn’t need to move your car from lot to lot for any reason. Plus, the cost will really add up if you park from lot to lot throughout the day.

This is our secondary option. We look for parking on River Road first, then just go ahead and pay for parking. Choose a lot close to where you want to visit or choose a central location so you do not have to do a lot of walking.

We like parking behind Ole Smoky and walk up the steps to get to the street. There are bathrooms there as well, so if someone from your group needs the facilities, you will be walking right by them. 

Have a great time and stay safe!


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