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Why is the Great Smoky Mountains the Most Visited National Park?


If you’ve ever been to the Great Smoky Mountains, you know how busy it can be. In 2019, there were 11.3 million visitors to this national park. What makes this area so popular? There are many reasons, including the wildlife viewing opportunities and historic value. We want to dive into why the Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park:

It’s Free to Enter

newfound gap in the smoky mountainsThe number one reason the Great Smoky Mountains are so popular is because it’s one of the only national parks in the United States that doesn’t charge an entrance fee. When the park was first becoming established, North Carolina and Tennessee had come together to build a road through the land that would become the national park so people could easily go from one state to the other. 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 wanted to ensure that there would never be tolls on the road, leading to the reason why you aren’t charged to enter the park.

elkmont nature trail footbridgeNow you may be wondering how the park gets funding if they don’t charge fees. There are several programs in place, including Friends of the Smokies, a program that raises funds for the park. You’ll also find several donation boxes throughout the park where you can put money in to go towards the national park.

Close to A Lot of People

About two-thirds of the nation can get to the Great Smoky Mountains within a day’s drive. Because it is so close to so many people, they want to visit the area! Many of the national parks in the west are hours from popular destinations, even in their own states! Yosemite National Park is about 3 hours from San Francisco. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is less than 1 hour from Knoxville and is about 1.5 hours from Asheville, North Carolina. Being this close to large and small cities make it a great destination, as well.

Full of Wildlife

black bear

When you think of the Great Smoky Mountains, a lot of people immediately think of black bears. This area is home to about 1,500 black bears, in addition to many other animals. It’s the unofficial capital for salamanders. There are more than 30 species of salamanders in the national park alone. You’ll also find all kinds of fish, deer, birds, elk, and bugs.

Tons of History

The Great Smoky Mountains are loaded with historic artifacts and places people love to visit. Cades Cove is one of the most popular places in the national park that is full of historic buildings you can walk inside and see. Many hiking trails also have historic buildings and remains that are neat to see. Not only will you find historic places in the national park, there are also some right outside. The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge is one of those places you will want to check out if you love history!

Now you know a little more about why the Great Smoky Mountains is one of the most visited national parks. Are you ready to come visit? Look through our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals and book one today!