Counting cars: Smokies updates decades-old visitation estimator

Anybody who’s been to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the last few years has seen it — overflowing parking lots, mobbed trails and narrow mountain roads lined with cars. They’re visual symptoms of a national park bursting at the seams with unprecedented levels of visitation,  hitting a highwater mark in 2021 at 14.1 million visits.

Smokies proposes parkwide parking fee

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park today announced a groundbreaking proposal to charge a daily fee for parking and significantly increase existing frontcountry and backcountry fees within the enormously popular national park. A public comment period is now open, and a virtual public meeting is planned for Thursday, April 14.

Smokies visitation blasts past 14 million

For five of the past seven years, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has posted an all-time high number of annual visits, and 2021 showed the largest leap yet. The park recorded a whopping 14.1 million visits in 2021 — a 12.4% increase over the previous record of 12.5 million set in 2019. 

Ticket, please: Smokies to explore paid parking, shuttle service as crowd control tools

As visitor use in the already-crowded  Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to climb, for the first time ever the park will try out paid trailhead reservations as a potential answer to overcrowding. 

Let’s talk about all the visitors

In the middle of the tourism season, is there any way to politely state the obvious: this region is being overrun by visitors.

A shared space, a shared responsibility

By Casey Quarterman • Guest Columnist | For six years I have been working as a Wilderness Ranger in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. I devote my time, blood, sweat and energy into keeping wild places as wild and natural as possible. 

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