Park Sets Visitation Record with 12.5 Million Visitors in 2019

January 27, 2020

hikers on Laurel Falls Trail

From: Public Affairs Office, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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

Cades Cove traffic, fall 2019. (Photo Source: NPS)

The park’s three primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Cherokee 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 between Walland and Wears Valley. Over one million visitors enjoyed this new scenic 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,” 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,” Cash said.

Monthly visitation records were set during January, March, April, May, June, and December. In both April and May, approximately one million people visited.

Laurel Falls crowd in 2019. (Photo Source: NPS)

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.

Lineup for GSMNP restrooms
Visitors to GSMNP line up for the restrooms at Rainbow Falls trailhead. (Photo Source: NPS)

Visitors are more consistently reporting traffic congestion, busy restrooms, and over-full parking areas throughout the year.

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

For more information about visitation, please go to the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics web page athttps://irma.nps.gov/Stats/.

From Friends of the Smokies:

The Smokies needs Friends now more than ever. Increased visitors means greater needs for resources to keep visitors safe and provide a world-class experience while protecting the resources of this beautiful place. Make a donation or become a member! Every dollar counts. Donate HERE