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Great Smoky Mountains National Park sets visitation record with 12.5 million visitors

Increased use on the three main entrances accounted for about two-thirds of the total park visitation, officials said.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record 12,547,743 visitors in 2019, which is 1,126,540 more visitors than in 2018.

The park’s three primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Cherokee all had increased use, the park said in a release Monday. 

Increased use on the three main entrances accounted for about two-thirds of the total park visitation, officials said. 

"Secondary park entrances experienced tremendous growth, due primarily to the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley. Over one million visitors enjoyed this new scenic driving experience," the park said. 

In 2018, there were 11,421,200 visitors.

Credit: WBIR
The Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

RELATED: Smokies all-time visitation record already shattered with one month left to go in 2019

“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. “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.”

Park officials said monthly visitation records were set during January, March, April, May, June, and December. 

In both April and May, approximately one million people visited, the release said.

"Before 2015, park visitation had not exceeded one million visitors per month until the summer and fall months. Another traditional shoulder season month, September, has now exceeded one million visitors since 2015. Visitors are more consistently reporting traffic congestion, busy restrooms, and over-full parking areas throughout the year."

According to the park, these are some of the issues it will be exploring over the next year in an effort to provide better access, experiences, and stewardship of the park.

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