Below are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions about our organization and how we help support Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you don’t find your question answered below, please contact us.

Friends of the Smokies FAQs

  • What is the difference between Friends of the Smokies (FOTS) and Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA)?
    • FOTS and GSMA are both 501(c)(3) nonprofit partners of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The primary difference between our sister organizations are the ways we raise money. FOTS primarily raises money through memberships, special event fundraisers, and general donations (including park donation boxes). GSMA primarily raises money through sales at their visitor center stores in and around the park and their membership program. Both organizations help fund critical park programs and we often work together on major projects.
  • Once I’m on your email list, how many emails can I expect to receive?
    • We will send e-newsletters called “News From the Mountains” every other month. We also send periodic emails for special fundraisers, events, and opportunities. Click here to sign-up for our email list and choose which emails you want to receive.
  • How do I unsubscribe from your email list?
    • Please click the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of any Friends of the Smokies email.
  • How can I contact Friends of the Smokies?
    • You can reach our Tennessee office by phone at 865-932-4794 or 800-845-5665. Our mailing address is PO Box 1660, Kodak, TN 37764 and the street address is 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Suite 2, Kodak, TN 37764.
    • You can reach our North Carolina office by phone at 828-452-0720. Our mailing address is PO Box 3179, Asheville, NC 28802.
    • To reach us by email, complete our contact form here.

Donation FAQs

  • I am having trouble making a donation online.
    • Please call 800-845-5665 and we will be happy to assist you or take payment over the phone. You can also mail a check to PO Box 1660, Kodak, TN 37764.
  • How does Friends of the Smokies determine which projects to fund?
    • The Park Support List is submitted each year to our Board of Directors by national park management staff. Our board then votes to approve the list and funds are disbursed to the park throughout the year. Projects are chosen by national park management staff based on a number of criteria including availability of park personnel, available grants and funding sources, and project priority.
  • Is my donation tax deductible?
    • Memberships, monetary donations, and in-kind donations are fully tax deductible. Tax-deductible portions of tickets for special events can vary by event. Purchases of specialty license plates are tax deductible at $30.75 in Tennessee and $20.00 in North Carolina per plate. Always consult your tax adviser to be sure.

Membership FAQs

  • How can I get a replacement membership card?
  • What are the membership benefits?
  • I recently purchased a Friends of the Smokies specialty license plate. Where can I claim my complimentary one-year membership?

Park Information and Wildlife FAQs

  • Where can I see wildlife in the Smokies?
    • Wildlife can be found in all parts of the park, over 522,000 acres, so it depends on what animals you’re looking for. One of the best areas for spotting black bears, deer, and migratory birds is Cades Cove. Elk can be found in Cataloochee Valley and Oconaluftee Valley near the visitor center. The best times of day to see wildlife are usually early morning and late evening when it’s not too hot or sunny.
  • How can I contact Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
    • For general park information, including road and facility closures, please call 865-436-1200. You can find more information about the Smokies online at nps.gov/grsm.

Black Bear FAQs

Warning: Bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable. Do not approach bears or allow them to approach you!

Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear, is illegal in the park. Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals.

Check the “Bear Closures” and “Bear Warnings” section of the Temporary Closures page before planning a hike in the park.

  • If you see a bear:
    • Remain watchful.
    • Do not approach it
    • Do not allow the bear to approach you.
    • If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) you are too close.
    • Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don’t run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.
  • If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting:
    • Change your direction.
    • If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground.
    • If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it.
    • Act aggressively to intimidate the bear.
    • Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
    • Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear.
    • Use a deterrent such as a stout stick.
    • Don’t run and don’t turn away from the bear.
    • Don’t leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.
  • If the bear’s behavior indicates that it is after your food and you are physically attacked:
    • Separate yourself from the food.
    • Slowly back away.
  • If the bear shows no interest in your food and you are physically attacked, the bear may consider you as prey:
    • Fight back aggressively with any available object!
    • Do NOT play dead!