Smoky Mountain National Park Ranks Third Most Dangerous in America
Before you pack up for your next adventure road trip to the Smoky Mountains, you may want to read this first. The folks at Outforia, a website dedicated to all things outdoor adventure, submitted a request to the National Parks Service, sighting the Freedom of Information act, in order to gain access to statistical data that they then used to determine which national parks in the United States are the most dangerous.
Outforia based their ranking on the number of deaths that have occurred across 62 national parks between 2010 and 2020. With that information, they concluded that a popular destination for many of us in the area is actually the third most dangerous - Smoky Mountain National Park. Located across parts of Tennessee and North Carolina, Smoky Mountain National Park is actually the most visited national park in the country with more than 12.5 million visitors between 2010 and 2020 and it is ranked number 3 on the list with 92 total deaths across that 10 year span. That is 34 less than the number two park and 42 less than the number one park. The Grand Canyon tops the list with 134 deaths and Yosemite comes in second with 126.
So how did all of these deaths occur? That really depends on the individual park. While your first thought might that all of these deaths just had to have been the result of encounters with dangerous animals in the wild, you'd be wrong. Out of all of the deaths that took place in all 62 national parks, only 6 were the result of an animal encounter and only one more than the 5 homicides. So how are people dying in the Smoky Mountains? Of the 92 deaths, 40% of them were from automobile accidents (37). The second highest cause of death was "medical/natural" causes accounting for 16% of the deaths (15) in Smoky Mountain National Park.
Below are some other causes of death in SMNP, according to Outforia:
- Drownings: 6
- Falls: 3
- Bicycling/Boating: 5
- Environmental: 4
- Poisoning: 2
- Other: 7
- Undetermined: 13
While it isn't clear what is considered "other" and what could be considered "undetermined," we have to wonder if the high number of deaths related to automobiles has anything to do with The Tail of The Dragon that runs through part of the national park. For those unfamiliar, The Tail of the Dragon is what some would consider the most dangerous 11 mile stretch of highway in the country. That 11 miles of U.S. Route 129 contains 318 curves, many of them hairpin curves and are a favorite for motorcyclists and performance vehicle fans. Found in Deals Gap, North Carolina, there is even a tree dedicated to the remains of vehicles who didn't survive the 11 mile stretch. It definitely is not for the faint of heart.