Yellowstone National Park eclipses 4 million visitors for the first time

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With nearly 4.5 million people having visited Yellowstone so far this year, heading to Lake Yellowstone has been a great way to avoid the crowds / Kurt Repanshek file

Editor’s Note: September visit numbers and year-to-date visits were corrected Thursday by Yellowstone staff to add 9,383 recreational visits to reflect an undercount at an entrance station.

More than 4 million visitors have entered Yellowstone National Park so far this year, a record for the park and a mark that challenges staff to manage the crowds.

“Never in the history of Yellowstone have we seen such a dramatic increase in the number of visits in such a short period of time,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We will continue to work with our teams and partners to develop and implement appropriate short and long term actions to manage the increase in visits to the park. I thank our teams here for working through a record year of visits, especially with the continued workforce challenges presented by COVID-19. “

The park surpassed the 4 million visitor mark in September by 882,078 visitors, an increase of 5% from the previous year and a substantial increase of 27% from September 2019, the park said on Wednesday. This has pushed the total park visits since the start of the year to 4,472,982 recreational visits, up 32% from the same period last year and 17% above the 2019 total through September.

The list below shows the cumulative trend of recreational visits over the past few years (up to September):

  • 2021 – 4,472,982
  • 2020 – 3,393,642*
  • 2019 – 3,807,815
  • 2018 – 3,860,695
  • 2017 – 3,872,775
  • 2016 – 3 970 778

Affected areas: developed corridors

Yellowstone’s highway corridors and parking lots represent less than 1,750 (0.079%) acres of the park’s 2.2 million acres. Most visitors stay within half a mile of these corridors.

Visitor usage strategy

The Yellowstone Visitor Use Strategy, developed in 2019, focuses on the impacts of increased visitation on: 1) park resources; 2) personnel, infrastructure and operations; 3) visitor experience; and 4) gateway communities, including economic and recreational access. The park focuses on the most congested areas including Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims, and Lamar Valley.

Actions

The park has developed a comprehensive resource tool to monitor and respond to resource impacts. The park piloted an AV shuttle system in 2021, moving more than 10,000 visitors to Canyon Village and testing technology that could be used in the future. A major shuttle feasibility study is underway to analyze the viability of a shuttle system in the Midway Geyser Basin. The park is also leveraging data derived from recent major visitor surveys and transportation studies to inform future decisions and is working closely with Grand Teton National Park on future solutions, as the two parks significantly share the visits every year.

Yellowstone has completed more than $ 100 million in projects over the past two years to improve transportation infrastructure, reduce congestion and improve the visitor experience. Substantial additional investments will continue in 2022 and 2023 in several areas of the park as part of the funding received from the Great American Outdoors Act.

Plan your visit

If you are planning to travel to Yellowstone this fall, check road and weather conditions, plan ahead and recreate responsibly to protect yourself and the park. Stay informed about changes to park operations and services by downloading the NPS Yellowstone app and visiting www.nps.gov/yell or the park’s social media channels.

More data on park attendance, including how we calculate these numbers, is available on theNPS Statistics Website.

Yellowstone Footnote: *The park was closed from March 24 to May 18, 2020 due to COVID-19. Two entrances were open from May 18 to 31 and the other three opened on June 1.

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