Yellowstone National Park sets a new visitation record

For the first time in park’s history, July saw more than 1 million visitors

By: - January 21, 2022 2:38 pm

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park smashed its record for the busiest recreational tourist season ever in 2021, and July saw the most visitors ever, eclipsing the one million mark.

Park officials reported there were 4,860,537 recreational visits during the year, an increase of 28 percent over 2020.

Officials also reported that while individual vehicle counts set a new high, the number of overnight visits dropped, likely due to construction, closed camp sites and other factors, such as COVID-19. However, data crunched by the park shows that 350,000 more vehicles re-entered the park, compared to 2019, likely because of less availability of overnight options within the park.

Recreational visiting trends in Yellowstone National Park:

2021 – 4,860,537
2020—3,806,306*
2019—4,020,288
2018—4,115,000
2017—4,116,524
2016—4.257,177

*= Yellowstone National Park was closed March 24-May 18, 2020 due to COVID. Three entrances did not open till June 1, 2020

In a news release Friday, Yellowstone Park said that it was developing better tracking programs that help officials understand who is entering the park, and how people re-enter it. They said the data will help them get a better idea of how tourists use the park. Moreover, the park is trying to figure out how the generally increasing trend of visitors can be safely handled, while maintaining a positive experience for guests.

In 2021, for example, Yellowstone National Park piloted a shuttle vehicle program, which moved more than 10,000 visitors at Canyon Village. The success of that program has spurred a program to study the viability of a similar shuttle system in Midway Geyser Basin. Along with that, Yellowstone National Park officials announced earlier this year they’re continuing to look at coordination with Grand Teton National Park because of the amount of overlap between the two parks.

Park officials report that more than $100 million in improvements and projects have been funded during the past two years.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.

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