GSMNP welcomes record breaking 12.5 million visitors in 2019

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record of 12,547,743 visitors in 2019.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record of 12,547,743 visitors in 2019. / (GSMNP)

Park officials said there were 1,126,540 more visitors in 2019 than in 2018. The park's three primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend and Cherokee all had increased use that accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total park visitation.

Secondary park entrances also experienced tremendous growth, due to the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley.

“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.”

The park's most popular months were January, March, April, May, June and December. In April and May, nearly one million people visited the park.

Before 2015, park visitation had never exceeded one million visitors per month until the summer and fall months.

Park officials said the increase in visitors has caused reports of traffic congestion, busy restrooms and over-full parking areas throughout the year. GSMNP officials said the park will be exploring the issues over the next year in an effort to provide better access, experiences and stewardship of the park.

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