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Q: What’s the difference between Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies?

A: GSMA and FOTS are both non-profit organizations established to supportGreatSmoky MountainsNationalPark. The difference in our organizations is how we raise funds. Great Smoky Mountains Association raises most of its park support through sales at our 9 visitor center locations in and around the national park. We also receive nearly $1 million in membership dues each year from individuals,familiesandbusinesses. GSMA members receive a slate of benefits, including shopping discounts at this and many other national parks and a subscription to our award-winning “Smokies Life” magazine. And, as a 501(c)(3), we receive donations from generous supports.

Q: I've heard that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is considered the most visited national park in the country. How does the park count visitors without an entry fee?

A: The park has loop traffic counters on every park road that brings visitors into the park. The traffic counters record each vehicle that comes into the park on a daily basis and multiplies it by a factor of either 2.81 persons per vehicle for May through October or 2.5 persons per vehicle for November through April.  Correction factors are included in the equation to account for bus traffic and administrative traffic by employees.  The multipliers/factors are determined by actual surveys and physical counts that are done every 4 to 5 years by the Socio-Economic Studies Division of the National Park Service. 

Q: How often is “Smokies Guide” published and where can I get my copy?

A: Seasonally. “Smokies Guide,” the official park newspaper, is published at the start of each season in the Smokies: spring, summer, fall, and winter.  Digital “Smokies Guides” are found HERE. In addition to our digital “Smokies Guides”, the official park newspaper is available at all visitor center locations HERE. Current issues can be purchased online and mailed to you from HERE.

Q: How often is Smokies Life magazine published?

A: Bi-annually. Smokies Life, GSMA’s award-winning magazine covering a wide variety of topics related to the national park, is published in the spring and fall. GSMA members receive a free subscription to the magazine; others are invited to look for current and back issues at our visitor center locations and online HERE.

Q: Which Smokies Life magazine had that story about…?

A: A list of Smokies Life magazine stories can be found in the product descriptions for each edition found HERE.

Q: How often is the Bear Paw published?

A: Bi-annually. Bear Paw, GSMA’s membership printed/digital newsletter, is published in the summer and winter. Within 24 hours of the Bear Paw's digital availability, we send an alert email.

Q: How often is the Cub Report published?

A: Monthly Cub Report, GSMA’s digital-only newsletter, is available to anyone interested in receiving updates about this national park. It is published and distributed on the last Wednesday of each month. Archival copies of this digital-only e-newsletter can be accessed by anyone on GSMA’s website HERE.

Q: How do I remove my email address from your email list?

A: Each email from GSMA is required to contain an “unsubscribe” link. GSMA personnel cannot remove your email from our list; only you have that right and ability.

Q: Where are the visitor centers located and what are their hours of operation?

A: GSMA staff operates nine visitor center locations in and around this national park. Click HERE to find directions to each visitor center, their hours of operation, and their days open.


Q: What does it mean to "Get Rooted in the Smokies" or GRITS?

A: When you "Get Rooted in the Smokies," you join nearly 30,000 others who have committed financially to support the mission of GreatSmoky Mountains Association. Our membership levels are named for the trees that cover a vast majority of our park's 500,000 acres. They start with Acorns, then grow in financial commitment from Buckeye to Chestnut to Dogwood to Hemlock.

Q: What’s an Acorn membership?

A: An annual Acorn membership is our youth level membership, available for $15 for children up to age 14. Acorn members receive a membership card, a fun activity worksheet and a free book from our published titles for children. For more information on the benefits of becoming an Acorn, click HERE.

Q: What’s a Buckeye membership?

A: An annual Buckeye membership is available for $35 for individuals ages 15+, $50 for families of two or more, all residing at the same address. Buckeye members receive a long list of benefits described HERE.

Q: What’s a Chestnut membership?

A: An annual Chestnut membership is available for $100 for individuals ages 15+, $125 for families of two or more, all residing at the same address. Chestnut members receive all the same benefits of the Buckeye level (described HERE), plus they are automatically entered to win our annual Chestnut Challenge prize packages.

Q: What’s a Dogwood membership?

A: A Dogwood membership is available for $200 per year, for an individual and $300 for two people at the same address - all with the goal of reaching $1,000/$1,500 in five years, at which time the level of membership is automatically upgraded to Hemlock. Dogwood members receive all the benefits of the Chestnut level, plus they receive a $50 coupon to use in any of our visitor center stores after their fourth payment is processed.

Q: What’s a Hemlock membership?

A: A Hemlock membership is available for $1,000 for an individual and $1,500 for two people at the same address - making them lifetime supporters of the Smokies. Hemlock members receive all the benefits of Dogwood members, plus they are entitled to attend all monthly “Branch Out Programs” at no cost to them. Other benefits of a Hemlock membership can be seen HERE.

Q: I became a Lifetime member prior to April 2015. Does that mean I'm now considered a Hemlock member?

A: No. Most Lifetime members contributed to GSMA at the $500 level; their status and benefits were grandfathered in prior to the membership level changes in April 2015. Any Lifetime member who would like to upgrade to Hemlock may do so. Click HERE for details.

Q: Can I still purchase an “installment” membership?

A: Yes and no. Our Dogwood level is considered an installment plan, with a goal of attaining Hemlock status after five payments of $200 for an individual/$300 for two people at the same address within the timespan of five years.

Q: I was an installment member prior to April 1, 2015. Can I continue to make installment payments online?

A: No. Please call the Membership Department at 865.436.7318, Ext. 222 for information about retaining your active status toward Lifetime status. *NOTE: This program is no longer available for NEW members. We also will accept checks via mail.

Q: Can I still purchase a Lifetime membership?

A: Yes and no. Our Hemlock level is considered a "Lifetime of Support" for the Smokies. It is available for $1,000 for an individual/$1,500 for two people at the same address. It can also be attained by starting at the Dogwood level. The previous $500 Lifetime level is no longer offered.

Q: How do I upgrade my membership?

A: Most GSMA members join initially at the Buckeye, our basic level. Upgrades beyond Buckeye include Chestnut, Dogwood and Hemlock. Upgrades can be purchased at any of our visitor center locations, on our website (within 30 days of renewal) or by calling our Membership Department at 865.436.7318 ext. 254, 222, or by clicking HERE.

Q: I'm a Lifetime member. Can I upgrade to a Hemlock?

A: Yes! Lifetime members need only contribute an additional $500 per individual to become a Hemlock member. This can be done in one or multiple payments in no more than two years. As a Hemlock member, your benefits will change slightly. While your shopping discount will drop to 20% savings, you'll be entitled to attend all Branch Out events free of charge.

Q: How can I find out when my membership is set to expire?

A: Most membership levels remain active for year one from the original date of purchase. To find your expiration date, look on the back of your Get Rooted in the Smokies membership card, call us, email us or follow the following steps:

1.    Log into your online account as a "Returning Customer" with your email and password. (If you do not remember your password, use the "Forgot Password" option and an email will be sent to you with instructions on how to update it.)

2.    Click "My Account" found at the top section on our website's home page

3.    Your membership expiration date is listed on "My Account Dashboard" page 

Q: Are my membership dues tax deductible?

A: A portion of each membership is tax deductible, with that portion determined annually. Receipts for the upcoming tax year are available by email in January of each year.

Q: Who do I call for membership questions?

A: Your Membership Department staff is here to serve you Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. EST at 865.436.7318 ext. 254, 222 and 325.

Q: I recently renewed my membership (at a visitor center store, through the mail or online). When will my new card arrive?

A: New membership cards are mailed within 3-4 weeks of the renewal process. If that amount of time has passed and your card has not yet arrived, please give us a call or EMAIL us.

Q: Is choosing the auto-renew really that important?

A: Yes! When you choose to auto-renew your membership, you're helping us reduce printing, mailing and labor expenses. Our mission of support for Great Smoky Mountains National Park is enhanced when we operate as efficiently as possible. 

Q: I've misplaced my membership card. How do I get a new one?

A: Email us HERE or call us M-F, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. EST at 865.436.7318 ext. 254, 349 and 325. Replacement cards are usually made available within 2-4 weeks after a request has been made.

Q: What is a Lookout League Membership?

A: GSMA is proud to receive support through annual memberships from businesses and organizations around the national park in both North Carolina and Tennessee. In return for joining GSMA at any of our Lookout League levels, we say “Thank You” with a list of benefits. Most of these businesses, in turn, show their support by offering discounts to our GRITS members. A list of business members can be found HERE.

Q: I know I receive a discount when shopping in the Smokies, but where else does my membership card earn discounts?

A: GSMA is proud to receive support from more than 170 businesses in and around the Smokies through our Business Membership Program. Many of these businesses offer discounts to our Buckeye, Chestnut, Dogwood, Hemlock, Installment and Lifetime members. A list of these businesses is found HERE.

Q: How do I use my GRITS membership card to receive discounts at other national parks?

A: Many other public lands, like the Smokies, are supported by non-profit partner organizations likeGreatSmoky Mountains Association. As a group, these partner organizations offer reciprocal discounts to members of other associations. Discounts vary from association to association and proof of membership may be required for discounted purchases. Click HERE to find a list of associations that participate in the reciprocal program.



Q: What are Branch Out programs?

A: Because education is one of GSMA's mission objectives, we've designed our Branch Out program to help our members gain hands-on knowledge. Programs are diverse - from day hikes to indoor, hour-long session. With few exceptions, Branch Out programs are scheduled each month in various park locations. We try to accommodate all, but some programs may not be appropriate for everyone, especially longer, harder hikes.

Q: Why does GSMA charge fees for Branch Out programs?

A: Fees are associated with our Branch Out programs to help cover the cost of our program leader, who many times is a professional naturalist and earns a living from the park. Most programs are $20 for members and $35 for non-members, which includes an annual Buckeye membership and all the benefits of our membership program at that level.

Q: Is it true that Hemlock level members may attend Branch Out programs at no fee?

A: Yes. With very few exceptions, Hemlock members are invited to participate in our Branch Out activities free of charge.


Q: What is the Legacy Fund?

A: In 2010, GSMA embarked on a path that one day will allow us to give Great Smoky Mountains National Park not $2 million each year, but closer to $10 million. We'll achieve this ambitious goal when our Legacy Fund is fully funded.

Q: How do I give to the Legacy Fund?

A: GSMA members are invited twice a year to make an additional show of support for the Smokies: first, to accompany their annual renewal; and second, during what most would say is the park’s most spectacular time of year, the fall color season. Members can, however, choose to give donations at any time of year for any reason at our visitor center locations, on our website, or by calling us at 865.436.7318, Ext. 222 or 325.

Q: Are donations to the Legacy Fund tax deductible?

A: Yes, Legacy Fund donations are 100% tax deductible. Each donor will receive a letter of appreciation in January. This letter serves as validation of support at tax time.


Q: Is it safe to use a credit card to make purchases on the GSMA website?

A: Yes, all credit card information is encrypted and pages are protected by SSL certificate. Once you click the “buy” button, the order information, along with your credit card number, is sent directly through an encrypted connection to a merchant gateway, which checks the validity of the card, available funds, and tests for fraud.

Q: How do I update my mailing address so I don't miss an issue of Smokies Life?

A: Smokies Life is published twice a year. If you've moved or changed your mailing address for any reason, we need to know. Call us, email us, or update your account by:

1.    Log into your online account with your email and password (if you do not remember your password, use the "Forgot Password" option and an email will be sent to you with instruction on how to update it).

2.    Click "My Account, " found at the top right corner of the webpage.

3.    Click "Address Book" on the left.

4.    Make all necessary updates to the information and click "Submit."

Q: How do I update my email address for the Cub Report?

A: Several options are available to update your email address to be sure you don’t miss the monthly Cub Report, including using the “Subscribe” link on our website homepage; by logging into your account and updating your contact information; and by calling us at 865.436.7318, Ext. 222 or 325.

Q: How doIlogintothe website?

A: When you joined GSMA as a member, we created an online account for you. We used your email address as your login, leaving the password up to you to create the first time you access your account. Start HERE, use the “Login” link at the top of the page, then click on “Forgot Password.”  Type your email address and click submit. Login to your email address to finish changing your password.  

If you are a non-member, you will need to create a new account by clicking “Register” at the top right of the webpage and fill out the form to create an account.

Q: Why should I log on to the site?

A: If you wish to make a purchase on our web store, you must first log in and access your membership account to receive your shopping discount. If, as a member, you do not logincorrectlyorcannotloginforany reason, please give us a call at 865.436.7318 ext. 254, 349 and 325. DO NOT create an account as a New Customer if you are a current member.

Q: I’m logged into my account, but I do notseediscountedmerchandise. Why?

A: Most likely because your membership has lapsed. To check if your membership has expired, sign into your account. Click on the My Account Link at the top of the webpage. You will see an alert in your dashboard if your membership has expired. If that’s the case, simply renew your membership here and you should see discounted merchandise prices within 2-3 days. Another reason could be that you have duplicate accounts in our system. If you believe you have multiple accounts, please let us know at 865.436.7318, Ext. 254 or 222.

Q: How do I access the Wildflower and Fall Foliage reports?

A: Go to the top of the webpage and click on “Experience the Smokies. On theleftsideyouwill see the Wildflower and Fall Foliage reports.

You also can:

-Click HERE for the Wildflower Report.

-Click HERE for Fall Foliage Reports.

Q: I am having trouble with the site loading or I can't checkout. Why?

A: There are a couple of things you can dototroubleshoot. 

1.) First, make sure you are using a supported browser. Below are the browsers that our website supports:

  • Internet Explorer 11 or later, Microsoft Edge,latest–1
  • Firefox latest,latest–1 (any operating system)
  • Chrome latest, latest–1 (any operating system)
  • Safari latest,latest–1 (Mac OS)
  • Safari Mobile for iPad 2, iPad Mini, iPad with Retina Display (iOS 7 or later), for desktop storefront
  • Safari Mobile for iPhone 4 or later; iOS 7 or later, for mobile storefront
  • Chromeformobilelatest–1 (Android 4 or later) for mobile storefront
2.) Second, make sure that your browser cache is clear. In your browser settings, there is an option for you to clear your history and cache. 
If you still are experiencing difficulty, please reach out to 865.436.7318, Ext. 255

Q: I am trying to reset my password but I never got an email. 

A: Please make sure to check your email folder labeled "Spam." It is possible that the emailwasaccidentlysentthere. If you still do not see it, you can email or call  865.436.7318, Ext.255. Please be aware that we can only resend the email for you to reset your password. Our system requires that a user must authenticate themselves by logging into their personal email to eliminate someone else from logging in with your information. 


Q: How does GSMA choose which retail products to sell in the national park stores?

A: Our Retail Director collects and accepts nominations for sale items throughout the year. Approximately three times a year, these items are brought before a committee comprised of mostly National Park Service staff - all experts in their fields. This committee votes yes or no on a product based on its subject matter and/or its relevance to the Smokies. Once an item has been approved, GSMA management, along with a subcommittee of our board of directors, decides how, when and for what duration to introduce an item into our stores based on a variety of factors, including time of year and warehousing logistics.

Q: Who do I call for questions pertaining to online orders?

A: Our Mail Order Customer Service Department can be reached at 865.436.7318 ext. 226. Our toll-free number is 888.898.9102. Our fax number is 865.436.6884. You can also email us at

Q: Can I return an item purchased at the Sugarlands visitor center to the Townsend visitor center?

A: Yes, you may return items purchased at any one visitor center location to another visitor center location. Please be sure to bring your receipt with you.

Q: Who do I call for a refund?

A: Our Customer Service Department can be reached at 865.436.7318, Ext. 226. Our toll-free number is 888.898.9102. You can also email us.

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