Great Smoky Mountains National Park Breaks Record in 2019 with 12.5 Million Visitors

Now, the park is looking to address overcrowding issues.

The fresh air. The wildlife. Those sunrise and sunset views. It's hard not to love Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clearly, travelers are fans of this sprawling national park situated between the Tennessee and North Carolina border. Now, the National Park Service has revealed the park received more traction than ever by welcoming 12,547,743 visitors in 2019. This figure shatters the then record-breaking 11.4 million visitors in 2018. While the park's three main entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Cherokee all hosted more visitors, making for about two-thirds of the park's total visits, secondary park entrances also experienced tremendous growth. The increase is due primarily to the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley, according to the park's news release, which also reported that over one million visitors enjoyed this new scenic driving experience.

Cherokee Overlook at Dawn
Getty Images / Dennis Govoni

"I am very proud of our employees who work hard each day, along with our volunteers and partners, to help provide outstanding visitor experiences and to protect the resources that people come here to enjoy," said Superintendent Cassius Cash in the same news statement. "With growing visitation, this has become more challenging. In 2020, we'll be inviting people to help us thoughtfully look at how we can improve access and continue caring for this very special place."

The news also reveals that monthly visitation records to the park were set in January, March, April, May, June, and December. While before 2015, the park had not hosted more than one million visitors per month except in the summer and fall months, the "shoulder season" months of April, May, and September welcomed roughly one million guests during each of those months last year. To deal with the crowds, traffic, and parking congestion, the park is looking into rectifying these issues "in an effort to provide better access, experiences, and stewardship of the park."

Here's to preserving one of America's most treasured landscapes. Remember if you visit: Take all of your sorbet-streaked sunset memories, but leave only your footprints.

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