Smokies officials weigh backcountry camping fees - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Smokies officials weigh backcountry camping fees

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park may start charging for backcountry camping and hire more rangers to manage what happens in the deep woods.

Park officials are holding an open house Tuesday in Cherokee and Thursday at the park's headquarters in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The national park is one of the country's most popular with more than nine million visitors last year. It's also among few that don't charge an entrance fee. The park requires those staying overnight in the nearly 90 backcountry sites to get a permit. But the reservations office is open just three hours a day because of staffing shortages.

Campers complain that lack of oversight means people take campsites without reservations, leave garbage, and bring dogs that aren't allowed.

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