Great Smoky Mountains National Park had record year in 2019 for visitors

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Visitors at Laurel Falls in July 2019. (Photo: GSMNP)

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (WATE) — On Monday, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced it had had more than 12.5 million visitors in 2019, setting a new record.

The new record total of 12,547,743 visitors surpassed 2018’s record by more than 1.1 million, according to park officials.

Park entrances were the primary cause for the increase in visitors, with the park’s three primary entrances in Gatlinburg, Townsend and Cherokee seeing increased use; the new section in the secondary entrance Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley also saw “tremendous growth” in 2019.

Increase in visitors has park officials exploring options for 2020

Visitors at Cades Cove in 2019. (Photo: GSMNP)

The numbers continue to grow, as do the issues associated with increased visitors, like amenities and refuse.

GSMNP officials also saying that 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,” GSMNP officials said Monday.

Months by the numbers

Monthly visitation records in 2019 were set during January, March, April, May, June, and December.

In both April and May, approximately one million people visited.

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.

MORE | GSMNP rangers give first look at repairs of tunnel leading into Cades Cove

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