The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw its highest number of visitors since 2000. This past year the park recorded 9,685,828 visitors, which represents a 7.5% increase over 2011. Visitation for the 2012 year was also the seventh highest in park history. 1999 still ranks as the busiest season in Smokies history, when 10,283,598 visited the park.
The number of tent campers increased by 4.8% versus 2011, however, the number of backpackers dropped 13.6%. I wonder if this was a result of the contentious debate with regards to backcountry camping fees, which were approved back in March. Is there an informal boycott going on within the backpacking community?
Here's a look at annual visitation trends since the Great Smoky Mountains became a national park in 1931: