Smokies sees more than 12M visitors despite virus closure

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Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountains

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Despite closing for more than a month because of COVID-19, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park experienced its second busiest year on record last year.

According to a news release, the park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border had a total of 12,095,720 visits in 2020. The Associated Press said the record was set in 2019 at 12.5 million visitors.

But the surge in use has brought problems with traffic, overflowing parking lots, crowded bathrooms, damage and litter. Over the last year, park managers worked with local communities and visitors to try to solve the challenges, collecting more than 2,000 ideas.

Park managers are using those ideas to develop a pilot project for at least one park destination in 2021.

The Associated Press reported the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the nation. The second was Yellowstone with nearly four million visitors last year.

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