Friday, January 9, 2015

Visitation up 8% in the Smokies in 2014

According to data collected by the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website, visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park increased by 8% in 2014, when compared to the prior year. In total, the park recorded 10,099,275 visitors in 2014, versus 9,040,430 in 2013.

Readers should note that visitation figures for 2013 were negatively impacted by the washout on Newfound Gap Road, as well as the Government Shutdown in October of that year, which occurred during one of the peak tourist seasons.

However, 2014 ranks as the fourth highest visitation count on record, and is only the fourth time visitation has ever exceeded the 10 million mark. 1999 still ranks as the highest when 10,283,598 people visited the park.

Here's a graphical look at visitation counts since the Smokies became a national park:

If you plan to visit the Smokies this upcoming year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your trip planning.

Hiking in the Smokies


Randy Small said...

Jeff - do you know HOW the Park Service estimates the number of visitors? Since there are no entrance fees, there's no way to directly count. And do they estimate the number of visitors or the number of visits? In other words, if I personally visit the park 20 times during the year, do I count as 20 visitors?

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Randy - if you go to the NPS stat report page for the Smokies (, click on the "Visitor Use Counting Procedures" near the bottom. This will pull up a PDF that explains how they do it. It's 3 pages, with an explanation on how each entrance is counted.

To answer your question, they count the number of visits - not visitors. So if you drive in and out of the park 5 times during one day, that is counted as 5 visits.

Even worse is the Blue Ridge Parkway that likes to tout itself as the most visited nat'l park unit (as opposed to a nat'l park, in which the Smokies is 1 of 59 nat'l parks). There are many people who use the BRP while commuting to work, or to simply go from point A to B. All those people get counted as visits - thus inflating the BRP statistics. Same with the people in TN who drive over Newfound Gap simply to gamble in Cherokee. Their out and back trips get counted as two visits...