According to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, state parks had over 14 million visits in 2013, maintaining the record levels reached in 2012 and 2011. But out of the five parks in the westernmost part of the state, only Lake James and Gorges had slight increases in visitation, while three parks had decreases in visitors. Mount Mitchell State Park in Yancey County had the largest decrease, a 19 percent drop over the year before.
The numbers reveal the important contribution parks make to the state’s tourism economy. Travelers spend an average of $23.56 a day to enjoy state parks. Most state parks do not charge admission. The only WNC Park with an entry fee is Chimney Rock State Park in Rutherford County.
Over the past 25 years, the state parks system has seen a dramatic 80 percent increase in visitation.
Mount Mitchell State Park had a 19 percent drop in visitors, down from nearly 300,000 in 2012 to around 243,000 last year. It can mostly be attributed to the rainy weather and a giant crack on the parkway during the busy summer season. The road failure closed the roadway between Asheville and the park for a couple of months during its busiest season.