The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Hit Record Number of Visitors in 2016

Did you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016? If you did, you were part of helping us hit our record-breaking number this year!

In 2016, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had 11,312,785 visitors! This number is 5% more than the record we hit in 2015!

Smokies Centennial Hike 100 ChallengeDrive through the Great Smoky Mountains

In 2016, the National Park Service celebrated 100 years! Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cassius Cash, committed to hiking 100 miles of the national park in 2016 and challenged locals and visitors to do the same. There were over 2,000 people who completed the Hike 100 Challenge in 2016!

Volunteer Hours in the National Park

Every year, volunteer hours are documented for final count at the end of the year. In 2016, there were over 2,200 volunteers who donated 117,000 hours of their time to help within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These hours include time for maintenance, trail clean up and more.

What was the record for 2015?

In 2015, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had 10,712,674 visitors which was record-breaking at the time!

Who keeps count of the visitors to the national park?

It’s quite a task to keep track of every visitor who enters the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the National Park Service keeps track many different ways. At the end of the year, they compile data from door counters at the visitor centers, road counters, campground reservation numbers and surveys. The same system is used at all national parks to calculate the correct number of visitors for each park. This is also the number that determines which is the most visited national park in the country.

5 Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With so many fun things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s easy to spend your entire vacation in the mountains! Here’s a few of the most popular things to do in the national park:

1. Explore a visitor center.

One of the best things to do before you make your way into the park is to stop by a visitor center. Sugarlands Visitor Center is very well known and is a popular place to visit. There’s a small museum in this visitor center that shows a 20-minute video on loop throughout the day. There’s also a gift shop with lots of books, souvenirs, maps and more. Any of the national park visitors centers, including Sugarlands, also has National Park Service rangers available to 

Bridge on a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains2. Choose a hiking trail.

If you’ve never been hiking in the national park, it’s time to get started! Choose one of the many hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, pack your backpack and hit the trails! Remember to pack lots of water and dress in layers so you can stay warm. Sometimes the upper elevations are cooler than the lower elevations! The scenery in the national park is something you won’t want to miss on your vacation!

3. Take a drive.

Need to take a break from hiking? Try one of the driving tours! There are many auto tours in the national park, but the most popular is the Cades Cove Loop Road. Other driving tours include Newfound Gap Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and more. Be sure you stop by a visitor center to pick up one of the $1 driving tour booklets. These booklets will show you all of the things to see along the drives so you don’t miss any landmarks.

4. Search for wildlife.Black bear in the Smoky Mountains

There’s wildlife all over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but sometimes you have to sit and wait to find certain animals like deer or black bear. One of the best places to catch a glimpse of wildlife is at Cades Cove, but we recommend visiting early in the morning or closer to the evening hours. Cades Cove is very busy throughout the year and the wildlife tend to hide out when it’s busy.

5. Go fishing.

There are about 3,000 miles of streams within the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of the streams are at a full carrying capacity so there’s plenty of opportunity to catch fish during your vacation. Fishing is permitted in the streams within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park throughout the year, from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Click here for official information about fishing in the national park.

Plan Your Vacation!

Thank you for continuing to visit the Smoky Mountains! It’s amazing to see so many people spending time in the area and the national park each year. For your next vacation, we would love to have you stay with us at Timber Tops Cabin Rentals. Take a look at all of our Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabin rentals to start planning your vacation today!