Archived Outdoors

Roadside parking banned at Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is so crowded as to be impassible on a busy summer day in 2021. NPS photo Laurel Falls is so crowded as to be impassible on a busy summer day in 2021. NPS photo

With more than 100 cars typically parked outside the parking lot at Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — mostly along the roadside — park staff are taking measures to eliminate these practices through Sunday, Oct. 30.

For the next five months, unofficial roadside parking will be blocked with temporary barriers such as traffic cones. Visitor use management strategies such as permanent roadside parking barriers, parking reservation systems and shuttle systems continue to be considered as a part of the Laurel Falls Trail Management Plan Environmental Assessment.

Laurel Falls Trail is one of the park’s most popular trails, resulting in extreme congestion, crowding at the falls and unsafe conditions along Little River Road. Roadside parking obstructs traffic flow and creates blind spots for motorists, causing a significant safety hazard, and it also damages adjacent habitats, road edges and erosion. 

Visitors planning to hike Laurel Falls should avoid arriving at peak times between 10 a.m. and 3 a.m. and should research an alternative trail in case parking is not available. The park contains more than 800 miles of trail, and the Backcountry Office is open daily to help with trip planning, in person or via phone at 865.436.1297.

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.