Record-setting visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues in 2015, with 351,670 visitors enjoying the park in January. The National Park Service has maintained monthly visitation records since 1979. Since that time, visitation has never exceeded 351,000 in the month of January.
Visitation was up at all major park entrances as well as the Park’s outlying areas. This increase was noticeable at the Park’s visitor centers, especially at Oconaluftee in North Carolina. The staff at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center welcomed 12,658 visitors in January, a 51 percent increase over 2014. Sugarlands Visitor Center staff saw a 13 percent increase in visitation compared to 2014.
The record month comes on the heels of the Park’s busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors enjoyed the national park, an 8 percent increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years.
“I am honored to join the Smokies staff in welcoming visitors to enjoy this special place,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “In my short time here, I’ve been able to see firsthand just how much people care about the park and I look forward to continuing to work with our communities and partners to serve our visitors and protect these mountains for the next generation to enjoy as we have.”
The Park not only welcomed a record number of visitors in January 2015, it also officially crossed a milestone in visitation. Since 1931, when the Park’s first Superintendent, Major J. Ross Eakin, arrived in the Smokies, over 500 million visitors have enjoyed Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Only the Blue Ridge Parkway and Golden Gate National Recreation Area have hosted more visitors during their existence.