The latest park visitation statistics show that the number of visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park jumped 37.7% in December versus the same month in 2010. A total of 471,603 visitors entered the park last month, compared to just 342,512 last December.
The Cherokee entrance saw the largest improvement: reporting a whopping increase of 75.1% for the month. Gatlinburg saw a 46.1% increase, while Townsend came in at 24.1% above the prior year.
For the entire year, however, total visits were down 4.8%. The park reported a total of 9,008,831 visitors to the park in 2011, versus 9,463,538 in 2010. Although that decrease may have hurt some businesses that depend on tourist dollars, the annual visitor count was still within the normal statistical range going back to the mid-1970s. Here's a look at visitor counts since the park's inception:
For the year, total overnight stays in the park declined 3.8%. This was the result of a 6.1% decrease in tent campers, and a 15.7% decline in RV campers. Bucking the trend were backcountry campers, which saw an increase of 13.8% in 2011 versus the prior year.