Yellowstone was packed and had its busiest year on record in 2021. How many visited?

·2 min read
NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Tourists packed Yellowstone National Park all summer in 2021, causing long lines, little parking and traffic jams — but it was part of history.

The year was the busiest on record for Yellowstone, according to data released from the National Park Service on Friday, Jan. 21. More than 4.86 million people visited.

From May to September, park visitors smashed visitation records. Each of the summer months were the busiest on record.

In July, more than a million people explored Yellowstone — and that had never happened before, park officials said.

The National Park Service also said more people were leaving and re-entering the park in 2021 compared to 2019 because fewer overnight stays in the park were available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yellowstone’s visitation boom mirrors what happened at many of the National Park Service’s most popular sites.

Park officials planned to see one of the busiest summer seasons on record in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic halted many vacations planned for 2020.

But before the even summer began, national parks were shattering visitation records.

“We are anecdotally seeing record levels of visitation in many of the most popular destination national parks, and those places are the big parks you think of like Yellowstone and Yosemite and Grand Teton and Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains,” Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, National Park Service assistant director of communications, told McClatchy News in June.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly previously said the park is working to develop short- and long-term solutions to protect the park while visitation booms.

Park officials are focusing on how park resources, staffing and infrastructure are being impacted by more people visiting the area. Additionally, there could be an impact on the towns near the park.

“The park is concentrating on the most congested areas including Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims and Lamar Valley,” the National Park Service said.

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