Despite late spike, Smokies visitation slips for the year

Overall visitation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the nation, was down overall last year, but visitors flocked there during the last month of the year.

The Cherokee entrance to the Smokies — North Carolina’s main entrance — was up 75.1 percent in December. Smokies experts said the strong December count was a result of a combination of unusually warm winter weather in 2011 and especially harsh winter weather in December 2010 that had kept traffic low that year.

The overall visitation in the park jumped by 37.7 percent last month when compared with December 2010. The strong showing drove the year’s visitation to just more than nine million. There was a 4.8 percent decline from the previous year.

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