2018 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park served as a place for people to get away, take in the scenic views and relax, but it was also the setting for heartbreak for some.

William Hill's body was found scavenged by a bear and Susan Clement's body was found a week after she went missing on a hiking trip with her daughter. 

"We want to know what happened to him," William Hills family member said.

With the heartbreak came growth.

A section of the Foothills Parkway that's been in the works for decades finally came to fruition in 2018. The missing link is finally complete.

"I would like to drive it before everyone finds out about it, because it's going to be a very crowded roadway for years to come," one excited park visitor said.

It's been a tough road to rehab since the fires in 2016, but after two years of hard work, the Rainbow Falls Trail in the Smokies finally reopened.

"This is the first major rehabilitation I'm aware of, so if you think of how long people have been loving the area and the trail, then it's a pretty big deal," a trail builder said.

The bounce back from the fires two years ago came as quite a surprise to visitors this year as well.

"I'm really surprised. I was expecting to see a lot of black earth and trees and buildings gone," a park visitor said.

You can't talk about the smokies without mentioning the synchronous fireflies!

It's a magical time of the year when fireflies light up the night sky with thousands of eyes watching in awe.

"It's always a gamble. We're hoping for a good year," park officials said.

From insects to amphibians, for park officials, it was a year of monitoring and researching salamanders in the park after the wildfires of 2016.

"There are more salamanders here by weight than all the mammals and birds combined. There are a lot here and they are important part of the health of the forest," a park official said.

Then, in 2017 while businesses were rebuilding, more than 11,000,000 people visited the park setting the all-time record.

Park officials are confident they will break the record again this year hoping over 11.3 million people come to visit.