Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sees Near-Record Number of Visitors in 2020
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sees 2nd Highest Number of Visitors in 2020!
Despite being closed for a period of time in 2020, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a near-record number of visitors! In 2020, the park saw 12,095,720 visitors. This is only the second time in park history that visitation has reached more than 12 million visits! The only other year was 2019, when the park saw 12,547,743 visitors. Although it didn’t break the overall record, 2020 was still a record-breaking year for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Between June and December, the park saw 1 million more visits than that same time period the year prior, and 2.3 million more visits than the 10-year average for those months. In addition, the park shattered monthly visitation records for each month from August through December. These numbers were high despite partial closures throughout the park from May until September.
Roads, trails, campgrounds and backcountry campsites all were busier than usual.
Another Record Breaking Number of Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2019
According to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s official news release, the park saw a record-breaking number of 12,547,743 visitors in 2019. This is 1,126,540 more visitors than in 2018! All 3 of the park’s primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend and Cherokee all had an increased use. According to the release, secondary park entrances saw tremendous growth as well. This was mainly because of the new section of the Foothills Parkway. More than 1 million visitors experienced this scenic drive in 2019. This is the fifth year in a row the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has seen a record number of visitors!
Not only was an overall record set for the year, but monthly visitation records were set during January, March, April, May, June and December. In both April and May, about 1 million people visited. Before 2015, the number of visitors had not surpassed 1 million per month until the popular seasons of summer and fall. September also saw more than 1 million visitors!
2018: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Breaks New Record for Number of Visitors Again
In 2018, the finished construction of the “Missing Link” on the Foothills Parkway contributed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park breaking its visitation record yet again! During 2018, the park had 11,421,203 visitors.
Other record breaking years include:
2017 = 11,338,894 visitors
2016 = 11,312,785 visitors
2015 = 10,712,674 visitors
2014 = 10,099,275 visitors
2017: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Breaks New Record for Number of Visitors Again
In 2017, the national park had 11,338,894 visitors this compared to the 11,312,785 in 2016. 2017 marked an additional 26,109 visitors from 2016.
2016: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Breaks Record Number of Visitors AGAIN!
Once again, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw the largest number of visitors in its history! In 2016, over 11 million people visited the national park, totaling 11,312,785 which was a 5% increase over 2015.
In 2016, over 2,200 people completed the Smokies Centennial Hike 100 Challenge by hiking at least 100 miles of trails in the national park.
In addition, over 2,230 park volunteers donated 117,000 hours of their time to help clean up and maintain the national park.
Thank you to all of our visitors and volunteers who help made 2016 a record-breaking year for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Breaks Record Number of Visitors for 2015
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has broken a record number of visitors!
In 2015, the Great Smoky Mountains had the largest number of visitors in its history. In 2015, the national park had 10,712,674 visitors – breaking the record that was set in 1999.
Top 5 National Parks & Visitation Numbers for 2015
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 10,712,674
- Grand Canyon National Park: 5,520,736
- Rocky Mountain National Park: 4,155,916
- Yosemite National Park: 4,150,217
- Yellowstone National Park: 4,097,710
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Breaks Visitation Record for 2014
In 2014, the number of Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors reached a record! For the fourth time in the last 80 years, and the first time since 2000.
Over 10 million visitors made their way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2014 which is an 8% increase from 2013. By exact count, the national park documented 10,099,275 visitors.
In addition to breaking a record number of visitors, the national park experienced an unusually high number of visitors in October, marking October as the highest visitation month in the last 27 years. This is due in part to the high number of visitors who enter the national park to see the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains.
Overall, it was a wonderful year for tourism in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as visitation was up nearly every month in 2014.
How does the National Park Service count the visitors?
One of the most common questions is “how do they count the visitors?” The National Park Service uses a lot of different ways to tally the number of park visitors. These include things like: door counters that you might notice when you enter a visitor center, road counters, campground reservation numbers and surveys. Then, with a lot of calculations, they come up with the exact number of visitors to the park each year!
Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With so many great things to do in the national park, it’s not a surprise that so many visitors choose the area for their getaway. With everything from hiking, driving tours and visitor centers, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to spend time with friends and family for a getaway.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Hiking in the Smoky Mountains
There’s over 800 square miles of hiking trails in the national park, so there’s definitely something for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or an avid hiker, you will find trails that range in difficulty from easy to strenuous.
If you are hiking with small children, it’s best to take a look at the family friendly hiking trails in the national park. This way, your kids won’t get worn out easily and you’ll still be able to enjoy the national park without any fuss.
When hiking with your pet, remember the only pet friendly hiking trail on the Gatlinburg side of the Smokies is the Gatlinburg Trail which is easily accessible from Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Driving Tours through the National Park
Have you ever taken a driving tour through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Depending on the time of year, there’s a few beautiful driving tours. Of course, you can take a drive through the park anytime without taking the designated driving tour routes, but the driving tours are much more educational and informational, so you can experience the true beauty of the national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitors like to take the Newfound Gap Road driving tour and Cades Cove Loop Road driving tour to see all of the beautiful sites in the Smokies.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitors Centers
Tourism in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park peaks at different points throughout the year, but that never stops people from taking time to stop by a visitor center. All of the national park visitor centers are great for people of all ages.
The most popular of all of the national park visitor centers is Sugarlands. In Sugarlands Visitor Center, you will find a small wildlife and nature museum as well as a retail shop for souvenirs, maps, books and more. At the visitor center, you will also be able to talk to a park ranger about the trails and they will be able to help you answer any questions you have about the park.
Staying in a Cabin Near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
When you choose to stay in a cabin near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll fall in love with the mountains all over again. Gorgeous views of the mountains paired with quality amenities will make your vacation unforgettable. We can’t wait to see you in the Smokies!