In spite of the pandemic North Carolina state parks experienced a record number of visitors in 2020. State parks and recreation areas welcomed 19.8 million visitors last year — 400,000 more than any other year on record and 1.2 million more visitors than in 2019. The previous record for visitation was set in 2017 when the parks with19.4 million visitors.
Among 41 state parks and recreation areas, 28 reported increases in visitation in 2020, despite the majority of parks being closed for weeks at the outset of the pandemic. Jockeys Ridge State Park in Dare County reported the highest visitation at 1.9 million. Several parks experienced visitation increases in excess of 25 percent compared to 2019, including Grandfather Mountain with a 32 percent gain. The month of December was the busiest December on record.
With increased visitation also came challenges such as overflowing parking lots. Grandfather Mountain and Mt Mitchell State Park each had to turn away visitors when parking lots were full. For more information on North Carolina’s state park system go to https://www.ncparks.gov/find-a-park.