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How many visitors per year can Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border, comfortably handle?

That’s a good question in light of the record 12 1/2 million visitors the park welcomed in 2019, according to the National Parks Traveler.

“I am very proud of our employees who work hard each day, along with our volunteers and partners, to help provide outstanding visitor experiences and to protect the resources that people come here to enjoy,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With growing visitation, this has become more challenging. In 2020, we’ll be inviting people to help us thoughtfully look at how we can improve access and continue caring for this very special place.”

Last year’s visitation tally of 12,547,743 was 1,126,540 more visitors than in 2018. The park’s three primary entrances near Gatlinburg, Townsend, and Cherokee all had increased use, accounting for about two-thirds of the park’s total visitation. Secondary park entrances experienced tremendous growth, due primarily to the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley.

More than one million visitors enjoyed this new scenic driving experience, a park release said.

Monthly visitation records last year were set during January, March, April, May, June, and December. In both April and May, approximately one million people visited. Before 2015, park visitation had not exceeded one million visitors per month until the summer and fall months.

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