HomeOutdoorsNewsGreat Smoky Mountains National Park Saw Second Busiest Year Ever in 2022

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Saw Second Busiest Year Ever in 2022

by Jon D. B.
Great Smoky Mountains foothills ranger and students
Great Smoky Mountains National Park foothills ranger and students. (Photo credit: GRSM, NPS Media Release)

Great Smoky Mountains’ 2022 visitation was more than more Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks’ combined.

Surpassing 12 million yearly visits for the fourth time, Great Smoky Mountains (GRSM) remains the most visited national park in the world. In total, GRSM saw 12,937,633 visits throughout 2022, the national park’s second busiest year ever.

“Last year’s visitation was more than 1.5 million above the park’s ten-year average, and more than the visitation of Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks combined,” the park confirms via media release to Outsider.

“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,” offers Superintendent Cassius Cash.

Tennessee and North Carolina’s beloved park has averaged 11.5 million visits every year since 2012. Smokies Visitation reached its highest level ever – over 14 million visits – in 2021. 

“We are thinking about what average visitation over the last ten years means for the next ten years,” Cash continues, adding his hopes to “preserve a high-quality visitor experience as well as park resources.”

Currently, GRSM’s implementation of their new Park it Forward program will play a vital role in both. It’s the first time in park history that visitors will need to pay for parking. While entry to the park remains free, visitors must pay for a parking pass for every vehicle entering the park.

Full Details on Great Smoky Mountains’ Park It Forward Program Here

Park it Forward will supply “much-needed revenues to improve visitor services and address longstanding maintenance needs in alignment with annual fluctuations in visitation,” GRSM notes. Here’s what to expect visiting the park this year:

  • Tomorrow, March 1, the park will implement the parking tag program
  • Any vehicle parked anywhere in the park will need to display a $5 daily, $15 weekly, or $40 annual parking tag
  • 100% of the revenue from the parking tag program will stay in the park to improve visitor services

Great Smoky Mountains will also be increasing shuttle services for 2023 to aid visitor experience. “Several local companies will offer shuttles to some of the park’s most popular locations in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and increase parking safety,” GRSM notes.

“In addition to purchasing parking tags and taking shuttles, visitors can help take care of their park by planning ahead and coming prepared with alternative destinations in mind if parking is not available at desired sites,” park officials ask.

When planning your visit, it’s best to carefully choose the time of day, time of week, and time of year. May through October are the busiest months in the park. Visiting on weekends and holidays will always be crowded, so try to plan a mid-week trip if possible.

If visiting Cades Cove in the park, please also familiarize yourself with Great Smoky Mountains’ prescribed burn schedule here.