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 Cherokee and Gatlinburg and Townsend in Tennessee all had increased use, accounting for about two-thirds of the total park visitation.
Secondary park entrances experienced tremendous growth, due primarily to the new section of the Foothills Parkway in Tennessee between Walland and Wears Valley. More than 1 million visitors enjoyed this new driving experience.
“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,” Superintendent Cassius Cash said. “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.”
Monthly visitation records were set during January, March, April, May, June and December. In both April and May, approximately 1 million people visited. Before 2015, park visitation had not exceeded 1 million visitors per month until the summer and fall months. Another traditional shoulder season month, September, has now exceeded a million visitors since 2015.
Visitors are more consistently reporting traffic congestion, busy restrooms and over-full parking areas throughout the year. The park will explore these issues over the next year in an effort to provide better access, experiences and stewardship of the park, officials said.
For more information, see the Park Service Visitor Use Statistics web page at https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/.