SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — If 2020 has got you down and you need to find a place to get away from it all, the Great Smoky Mountains continue to offer natural refuge from the world's woes.
Millions of people are finding their escape in nature, and it's led to record visitation numbers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The great outdoors provides people with a nearly endless amount of space to feel safe while enjoying their time off in a naturally "social distanced" way, so millions decided to pack up and head to the mountains this summer.
July was the busiest month on record in the last 23 years, and the third-busiest in the entire history of the GSMNP -- only topped by July of 1986 and 1997. 1.7 million visitors were in the park this July, which is 7% more than July 2019.
More than 1.5 million people visited the park in June, and June and July combined broke all previous summer visitation records to become the busiest in the park's history with 3.26 million visitors.
Record visitation doesn't necessarily translate to record funding for the park, though. The Smokies is the most-visited national park in the U.S., but it does not charge people for admission like some parks do -- relying on a mix of funding from donations and visitor spending on goods and services.
If you'd like to help the park, Friends of the Smokies takes donations online and at donation boxes in the park to support the GSMNP and its biggest needs.