Smokies park hosted an extra half-million in 2012

Associated Press

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — A half-million more visitors toured the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2012 than during the preceding year.

Figures released by the National Park Service showed nearly 9,686,000 people entered the park during last year. That compares with just below 9,009,000 the year before.

Park officials said a mild winter and spring during 2012 helped boost tourism in the nation's most-visited national park. There were nearly 2 percent more visitors in December than in the last month of 2011.

For the year, visits to the Smokies were up 7.5 percent from 2011.

The year with the largest number of visitors in this century was 2000, when 10.1 million people came to the Smokies.

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