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GSMNP announces plan for "vehicle free" days in Cades Cove

During the 2020 season, 25% more pedestrians and cyclists participated in vehicle-free access periods per week than in 2019.
Credit: GSMNP

TENNESSEE, USA — Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are extending a pilot project in Cades Cove by continuing vehicle-free access on the Cades Cove Loop Road on Wednesdays from May 5 through September 1, 2021. 

Park managers said they implemented this opportunity in 2020, in an effort to improve the visitor experience. 

Officials also wanted to reduce congestion associated with vehicle-free mornings that were previously offered until 10:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The park received 47 comments through mail, email, phone, and comment cards regarding the vehicle-free day pilot project. 

During the 2020 season, 25% more pedestrians and cyclists participated in vehicle-free access periods per week as compared to the 2019 season, with an average of 1,800 participants each Wednesday.

Park managers continue to be concerned about parking congestion and will monitor use levels, parking availability, visitor experience, and congestion throughout the second year of the pilot project. According to data collected in 2020, parking lots were full during 30% of the observation period and roadside shoulders along Laurel Creek Road were utilized for parking during 60% of the observation period. 

Staff and volunteers will implement some changes in parking access this season to ease pressure on campground and picnic area parking lots and to prevent roadside parking along Laurel Creek Road. 

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