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Even with COVID-19 closure, the Smokies saw near-record visitation in 2020

The Smokies were closed for 47 days because of the pandemic, but then shattered visitation records in the summer and fall as people looked for outdoor activities.

Even with a six-month closure, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had a near-record number of visitations in 2020.

According to visitation statistics from the National Park Service, 12,095,720 people came to the Smokies last year, seeking outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of the park's facilities were closed on March 24, including campgrounds, parking lots, and restroom facilities. It began to reopen on May 9. During the month of April, the park still saw 99,371 recreational visitors, but most of those were driving on the Foothills Parkway, which wasn't closed.  

But once the park reopened, visitors flocked to the country's most visited national park.

2020 was the second-busiest year ever, with about 450-thousand fewer visitors than the record-breaking year before. In 2019, the Smokies saw 12,547,743 visitors.

Visitation in May was still down, as some roads and facilities were still closed. But after the closure, the Smokies shattered monthly visitation records for the rest of 2020. It was the busiest summer and fall in the history of the park. More than 1.7 million people visited in both July and October alone.

If it were not for the 47-day closure, it's likely the park would have shattered the 2019 visitation record.