Archived Outdoors

Smokies record second busiest year ever

Cars crowd the road during a busy fall day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. NPS photo Cars crowd the road during a busy fall day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. NPS photo

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 10-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 park has now implemented 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.   

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