Blue Ridge Parkway managers announced Monday that recreation visits to the park in 2021 totaled an estimated 15.9 million, making the parkway once again the most visited spot in the National Park Service.
Park leadership and staff used the opportunity of the announcement to remind park neighbors and visitors that protecting the park for generations to come requires a shared commitment to stewardship.
“While overall Parkway visitation has remained relatively stable over the past five to ten years, some of the park’s most popular destinations are seeing the impacts of heavy visitation,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout. “Overcrowding at popular locations can lead to diminished visitor experience and damage to park resources. These impacts can often be avoided by recreating responsibly. With 469 miles to explore, we encourage you to find new ways to enjoy the Parkway this year.”
One important way to discover new adventures and to recreate responsibly is to plan ahead. Just as park staff are planning ahead for the 2022 season by hiring seasonal staff, conducting winter maintenance activities, finalizing road project plans, and readying facilities for visitation, park visitors can also plan ahead by learning about park resources and trail etiquette, locating seasonal facility schedules, or book-marking campground reservation websites. More tips for planning a Parkway visit are available at https://go.nps.gov/parkway-plan-ahead.
Parkway visitation highlights in 2021 include:
2021 visitation represents an approximate 13% increase from 2020 Parkway recreation visits. The Parkway most recently saw similar levels of visitation in 2017 with an estimated 16.1 million visitors.
2021 saw a 12.4% increase in camping use over 2019, which was the most recent high occupancy year. Specifically, tent camping was up 9.9% and RV use up 16.28% over 2019. Since 2014, camping use on the Parkway is up 56.8%.
Three hundred and sixty-two motor vehicle accidents occurred on the Parkway in 2021. Of those accidents, 252 resulted only in property damage, 102 accidents involved injuries, and eight resulted in fatalities. Five of the fatalities involved motorcycles. The overall accident rates in 2021 represent a 17% increase from 2019 and a 13% decrease from 2020.
The Parkway motor road remains open, weather permitting, year-round; and the traditional visitor season begins in the spring and continues through the fall. Additional information to help plan a 2022 Parkway visit, including current road and facility status, is available at www.nps.gov/blri.