Great Smoky Mountains in October, (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Businesses in the Smokies say they had a big weekend and are planning for another big weekend ahead.
Jennifer Vernon and her family are on a quick vacation in at Wilderness of the Smokies resort. She says she didn't expect to see so many people in the Smokies this weekend.
"It blew us away. We didn't expect this many people to be here. It's packed out," said Vernon.
But she like hundreds of thousands of others are here to see the fall colors at their peak..
"It just draws people in, it's just too short of a time so we want to just soak it all up," Vernon said.
Businesses say they're staffed with fall employees. Wilderness of the Smokies says falls proving to be as busy at summer.
"It kinda rolled into the fall, 2 or 3 weekends just absolutely packed and It's continuing on right now," said Ryan Willis, spokesperson for Wilderness of the Smokies. "We also had a big home football weekend with Alabama coming to town. So a lot of out of town visitors really make that a vacation. So it was extremely busy here."
Inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it was hard to find peace alone. The park says traffic was backed up from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, and it took more than 5hours to drive the 11 mile scenic loop in Cades Cove.
There's a lot of color still in the smokies and should lake through early November.
"Our lower elevations are still rapidly developing color. They're probably getting close to their peak in some areas. Especially along our little river road. So we'll see more people coming in to view those," said Molly Schroer with the park service. "It was a busy weekend."
While the park doesn't have exact numbers of visitors for October, the park has seen a summer of upticks in visitors. Great Smoky Mountains National Park recorded 963,317 visitors during
September 2012. This is a 9.2% increase in visitation as compared with September 2011.
Hotels report 80-90% bookings for this coming weekend.