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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is on pace to set another record-breaking number of visitors for 2019! It’s no surprise our beautiful park continues to draw in more visitors year after year. Read on to learn more about this year’s visitors and why you should plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2019!
2019 Visitor Numbers on Record Pace
In January of this year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park shattered its previous record with a total of 496,743 visitors. That’s almost 115,000 more than the number of visitors in January of 2018! Despite the records of rainfall, February of 2019 saw its third busiest February ever recorded in the Smokies. There were 421,770 visitors this February. It comes behind February of 2017, which had 457,921 and February of 2000, which had 443,683. March 2019 was another record-breaking month. The national park saw 786,305 visitors in March. The previous record for March was 778,211 visitors in 2017.
Now, October’s visitation numbers are in, and the number has continued to increase! By the end of October, 10,975,694 people visited the park in 2019. That’s a 10.7% increase from this time last year! At the end of October in 2018, the park had seen only 9.9 million visitors. Even if the park got no more visitors the rest of the year, 2019 would have the 4th most visitors of any year in Smoky Mountain history!
A big reason for the increase in visitation is the completion of the new stretch of the Foothills Parkway, which opened in November 2018!
New Stretch of Foothills Parkway
With the completion of construction along the Foothills Parkway, visitors can now experience the 16-mile roadway for the first time. Now, the Foothills Parkway has two finished sections at either end of the 72-mile corridor. There is the western section, which extends 33 miles from Chilhowee to Wears Valley, and the eastern section, which extends 6 miles from Cosby to I-40.
Government leaders are still working to come up with ideas for how to put the unfinished 33-mile section to use for recreation. It is possible that this section will be turned into an area for hiking and biking!
Watch the video from WBIR below to learn more about what’s in store for the remaining section of the Foothills Parkway:
Why You Should Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
It’s no secret that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in the country! There is something for everyone to enjoy when they visit, and it’s completely free to enter. Whether you want to explore the many miles of hiking trails or spend the afternoon fishing, you can do it all when you visit. In addition to the new section of the Foothills Parkway, here are some of the most popular reasons you should visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
1. To drive along the Cades Cove Loop Road
Cades Cove is one of the most popular spots in the national park. One of the best ways to explore this area is by driving the Cades Cove Loop Road. This 11-mile, one-way loop provides the opportunity for you to enjoy its beauty from the comfort of your vehicle. You can see wildlife, historic sites and structures, gorgeous mountain views, and more.
2. To see wildlife
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to diverse wildlife. There are about 65 species of mammals, 80 types of reptiles and amphibians, and over 200 varieties of birds. Some of the animals you can see when you visit include white-tailed deer, black bears and turkeys. The best places to spot wildlife are in open areas like Cades Cove.
3. To hike to a waterfall
The Smoky Mountains are home to many gorgeous waterfalls. The tallest waterfall in the park is Ramsey Cascades, which is 100 feet high! The trail to the waterfall gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation over its 4-mile course and is a great hike for those looking for more of a challenge. For a waterfall hike that’s family friendly, try the Laurel Falls Trail. Laurel Falls is an 80-foot waterfall with both an upper and lower section that’s separated by a walkway. The hike to the falls and back is 2.6 miles.
4. To go camping
For the perfect end to your trip in the Smoky Mountains, go camping! There are a variety of campgrounds in the Smoky Mountains for every type of camper. After a day spent exploring everything the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer, spend your night underneath the Smoky Mountain sky! Take a look at all the best campgrounds and RV parks in the Smoky Mountains.
Help keep the record pace of Smoky Mountain visitors going by planning your vacation! Learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then plan your trip.