Smokies see second-most visits ever in 2020

Gatlinburg has been named the number one trending destination in the United States by Tripadvisor, and number five in the entire world. In the year of a pandemic, the national park brought in a record amount of new visitors.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park reported its second-most visitation record ever in 2020 with more than 12 million people visiting the park. That number is just shy of the all-time record in 2019.

Hiking and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are listed as top reasons that Gatlinburg is trending on Tripadvisor.

Visitors like Ken Smith say they were here over the summer and found it hard to get to their favorite spots.

“We were coming back down from northern Michigan, and yeah, the weather was gorgeous, we’ve never been here in July so it was a lot of people,” said Smith. “We tried to get up to Clingman’s Dome and couldn’t, nowhere to park, it was so packed.”

This record comes even with the park closed for more than 40 days in 2020, showing just how popular the Smoky Mountains have become.

“It is no surprise to us that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is that close to setting another record. Simply because it’s so centrally located to so much of the eastern United States,” said Marci Claude with the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Park records show at least three million of those people traveled right through the Gatlinburg entrance. Claude says it’s a blend of affordable vacations, stimulus money, and some of the best outdoor recreations you can drive to.

“We believe we’ve seen a lot of new visitors this year. Folks that had an opportunity to travel, perhaps working from home or virtual school,” she said.


In the Tripadvisor survey, Pigeon Forge was ranked number 4 as a trending destination. The survey found that Pigeon Forge was good for hiking, camping, rollercoasters and bluegrass at Dollywood.

Source: WVLT, by Kyle Grainger

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Published January 28, 2021