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Great Smoky Mountains National Park set to shatter visitation records

The park has seen nearly 11 million visitors this year -- and counting. That's more than it had at this time last year.
Credit: Elizabeth Sims
Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — October's visitation numbers are in -- and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is looking at a big increase.

By the end of October, 10,975,694 people visited the park -- nearly 11 million. That's a 10.7% increase from this time last year. That's according to the park's online Year To Date numbers.

The park kept the nation's record in 2018 with 11.7 million visitors -- but it may just break its own record this year. By this time in 2018, the park only had 9.9 million visitors. That's one million less than right now. 

Even if the park got no more visitors this year, 2019 would already have the 4th most visitors of any full year in the Smokies' history. 

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Here are the increases compared to last year so far, broken down by location:

  • Gatlinburg: 3.2% increase.
  • Townsend: 3.6% increase.
  • Oconaluftee, NC: 5% increase.
  • Outlying Areas: 25.5% increase.

The largest increase by far was in the outlying areas. Most of that increase came from the Foothills Parkway West area -- a site that received more road access starting late last year. The "missing link" parkway to the area opened in November of 2018.

Credit: WBIR
The Foothills Parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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However, not all of the park's statistics increased. While the total visitor numbers are higher, the park has seen less campers -- a 0.4% overall decrease.

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Only two locations in the park saw less visitors than this time last year. Those were Foothills Parkway Northbound and Wear Cove.

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