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GSMNP records second-busiest year on record with nearly 13 million visitors

The park said this is the fourth year it has seen more than 12 million visitors annually.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park remained America's most-visited national park for another year, seeing more visitation than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon national parks combined.

The park did not reach the record-breaking heights of 2021 when it saw more than 14 million visitors, but it did post the second-most visited year on record with nearly 13 million people coming to the Smokies. 

“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.”

This is the fourth year in a row the park has posted more than 12 million visitors, which is also to say this is the fourth time in its history the park exceeded that number. Between 2011 and 2021, the park said it has seen its annual visitation increase by 57%.

The park said year after year of record visitation has put a strain on its resources, prompting it to implement a paid parking system for the first time in its history.

Starting March 1, the park will be charging visitors for parking passes. There are three types of tags: $5 for a day, $15 for a week and $40 for a year. 100% of the revenue from parking will go to improve visitor services.

Park officials said these parking tags are not an entrance fee and all roads in the Great Smoky Mountains are still free to the public. The park will also expand shuttle services within the park, allowing local companies to offer shuttles to popular locations in hopes of reducing traffic congestion.

Outside the Smokies, the National Park Service said Obed Wild and Scenic River in Wartburg reported record visitation in 2022. The park saw more than 300,000 visitors for the first time ever, which is nearly a 25% increase over its 2021 visitation and more than 40% over its average visitation in recent years.

"In recent years, many people have rediscovered the solace of nature and the restorative powers of spending time in wild places,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas. “We are thrilled to welcome so many new visitors to the Obed, not only as a venue for high adrenaline activities such as whitewater kayaking or rock climbing, but also as a remarkably beautiful place for more tranquil activities such as taking your dog for a walk or just finding peace in the outdoors.”

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