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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

New: Parking Fees

Parking tags are required in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Three tag durations will be available for purchase for all vehicle sizes and types: Daily, $5; Weekly, $15; or Annual, $40. Tags may be purchased online, or on-site. Parking tags will NOT be required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes, or while parked at their designated campsite. Parking Program Info

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Located on US 441 two miles north of Cherokee at the Park entrance, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is the Park’s main welcome and information center for the North Carolina side. The center is staffed daily (except Christmas) by knowledgeable, helpful park rangers and volunteers.

A museum recounts the history of life in the Smokies from native Americans and early European settlement time periods through the creation of the National Park.

Also in the visitor center, you’ll find maps, merchandise and helpful publications in the Great Smoky Mountains Association’s bookstore and shop.

You might spot some elk in the fields at the visitor center. Mid-late afternoons are the best times.

Open daily except Christmas. Hours vary by season

Elk Viewing

Elk can be seen almost any time of the year, grazing in the fields around the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the Mountain Farm Museum. Best viewing is in the early morning and late afternoon, summer thru fall. Winter viewing is unpredictable.

Learn more about elk viewing in the Smokies on our ‘Elk Watching‘ page

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River Trail

The easy, 1.5 mile (one-way) Oconaluftee River Trail begins near the rear of the visitor center. It is stroller-accessible, bike and pet-friendly and follows the river to Cherokee, N.C.

Educational Programs in the National Park

Oconaluftee Visitor Center The National Park has some great educational and fun programs, from spring through fall. Some are part of the Junior Ranger program, but many are for the whole family.

In summer there are daily programs for Junior Rangers, historic tours, night hikes, river rambles, guided waterfall hikes, wagon rides, storytelling and more.

Nearby Attractions

Two other popular Park attractions are nearby —

Mountain Farm Museum

Mingus Mill

Bryson City - Swain County
Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 509
Bryson City, NC 28713

Karen Proctor
Executive Director


Visitor Guide pages

Order a free Visitor Guide featuring Bryson City and the North Carolina Smokies