Western North Carolina can lay claim to two of 2013’s top three most visited places in the National Park System.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park kept first place among the 59 primary national parks. With 9.4 million visitors, it remained head-and-shoulders above its closest competitor: the Grand Canyon, with 4.6 million visitors.
The Smokies came in third among all units in the National Park System as a whole.
Meanwhile, the Blue Ridge Parkway took second place in visitation among all national park units with 12.9 million visitors. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the winner with 14.3 million visitors.
It was the first year the Parkway was edged out by Golden Gate. Visitation to the Parkway fell by 2.5 million visits, due in large part to storm damage and generally cool, wet conditions. Overall, though, visitation to national park sites nationwide fell by 9.1 million in 2013.
“The shutdown reduced our visitation for the year by more than 5 million visitors who were turned away during those two weeks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.