Last Updated on February 17, 2022 12:56 pm
Park officials remind visitors there are many miles to explore
(NC/VA) – Blue Ridge Parkway managers announced today there were an estimated 15.9 million recreation visits to the park in 2021. On the heels of the National Park Service announcement that the Blue Ridge Parkway again ranks at the top of NPS visitation over the past year, park leadership and staff want to use this opportunity 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 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 your 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.
In 2021, there was a 12.4% increase in camping use over 2019, which was the most recent high occupancy year. Specifically, tent camping is up 9.9% and RV use up 16.28% over 2019. Since 2014, camping use on the Parkway is up 56.8%.
There were 362 motor vehicle accidents on the Parkway in 2021. Of those accidents, 252 resulted only in property damage, there were 102 accidents with injuries, and eight resulted in fatalities. Of the fatalities, five 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 fall. Additional information to help plan a 2022 Parkway visit, including current road and facility status, is available at www.nps.gov/blri.
For an in-depth look at 2021 visitation statistics, please visit the National Park Service Social Science website. For national summaries and individual park figures, please visit the National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics website.