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Great Smoky Mountains National Park has second busiest year ever recorded
Published February 28, 2023; 10:44 p.m.

great smoky mountains national park
Chimney Tops Trailhead; image by Jeaneane Payne

GATLINBURG, TN -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park experienced its second busiest year ever in 2022 with 12,937,633 visits. Last year’s visitation was more than 1.5 million above the park’s ten-year average and more than the visitation of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks combined. This marks the fourth time the park has exceeded 12 million yearly visits.

“The 2022 visitation report confirms what we have long known to be true — Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to be a special place for millions of visitors,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are thinking about what average visitation over the last ten years means for the next ten years and how we will preserve a high-quality visitor experience as well as park resources.”

The new Park it Forward parking tag program will generate much-needed revenues to improve visitor services and address longstanding maintenance needs in alignment with annual fluctuations in visitation. Starting March 1, the park will implement the parking tag program. Any vehicle parked anywhere in the park will need to display a $5 daily, $15 weekly, or $40 annual parking tag. 100% of the revenue from the parking tag program will stay in the park to improve visitor services. Another change this year to improve the visitor experience will be increased shuttle services. Several local companies will offer shuttles to some of the park’s most popular locations in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and increase parking safety.

In addition to purchasing parking tags and taking shuttles, visitors can help take care of their park by planning ahead and coming prepared with alternative destinations in mind if parking is not available at desired sites. With over 800 miles of trails and more than 380 miles of scenic roadways, visitors have many options for other locations that offer first-rate experiences. And carefully choosing the time of day, time of week, and time of year can help improve the chances to find safe parking. May through October are the busiest months in the park, and weekends and holidays are the busiest days.

Since 2012, the park has averaged almost 11.5 million visits every year. Visitation to the Smokies reached its highest level ever with more than 14 million visits in 2021.

national park visitors 2023

National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics has more details about visitation at Great Smoky Mountains and other national park units.


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