Smoky Mountains
May 13, 2023

You might be surprised to know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States! In fact, it receives more than the visitation of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon national parks combined! The park experienced its second busiest year ever in 2022 with 12,937,633 visits, which marks the fourth time the park has exceeded 12 million yearly visits! Here are the top 4 reasons why the Great Smoky Mountains are the most visited park:

1. Close to Two-Thirds of the U.S. Population

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sign

Unlike many of the national parks that are situated in remote locations, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is close to roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population! The park is less than one hour from Knoxville TN, and about 1.5 hours from Asheville NC, and many other larger cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, and Washington D.C. are within a day’s drive. Although a park like Yosemite National Park is certainly iconic, the closest city is San Francisco which is 3 hours away!

2. No Entrance Fee

Another one of the top reasons why the Great Smoky Mountains are the most visited park is because there is no entrance fee! When the park was first becoming established, Tennessee and North Carolina came together to build a modern road through the land that would eventually become the national park. When the government was trying to attain the land, they asked the states if they could obtain Newfound Gap Road. North Carolina deeded over the road almost immediately, while Tennessee added a clause to ensure that there would never be tolls on the road. This led to the reason why you aren’t charged to enter the park! As a reminder, remember that you WILL need to purchase a parking tag for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

3. Abundance of Wildlife

black bear in the Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its abundance of wildlife, and you’ll find all kinds of critters throughout the park! Many people tend to think of black bears when they think of the Smokies and for good reason – there are about 1,500 black bears that live in the area! The park is also the unofficial capital for salamanders, and there are over 30 species of salamanders in the national park alone! With so many incredible animals, it is no wonder why so many people love wildlife viewing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

4. Fascinating Historical Places

While Great Smoky Mountains National Park has hundreds of scenic trails for hikers to enjoy, the park also features many fascinating historical places! One of the highest concentrations of historical buildings and landmarks is situated in Cades Cove, which attracts 2 million visitors per year and is the most popular destination in the park! You’ll not only have the chance to discover the John Oliver cabin that dates back to 1820 and the John Cable Grist Mill that was built in the early 1870s, but three beautiful churches that each feature their own unique history!

Now that you know why the Great Smoky Mountains are the most visited National Park, come see for yourself why so many folks love the Smokies! While the park is open all year long for your enjoyment, learn about the best time of year to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park!