Yellowstone's 2022 Visitation 32% Lower Than 2021

Yellowstone’s 2022 Visitation Took a Hit – 32% Lower Than 2021

Written by on March 1, 2023

Yellowstone National Park faced “a flood” of challenges in 2022, and its visitation reflects it, but park officials and their partners can still reflect on a year of unprecedented accomplishment.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Yellowstone National Park released the final visitation statistics for 2022. Unfortunately, there are no surprises – after one of the most significant and destructive years in the park’s history, attendance dropped by well over one million people.

The circumstances behind the visitation drop are well known. Historic floods in June 2022 closed public access to Yellowstone National Park. On June 13, all park entrances closed, and visitors were evacuated over the next 24 hours.

On June 22, the East, South, and West entrances opened on a limited entry basis. On July 2, entry restrictions on the East, South, and West entrances were removed.

The North and Northeast entrances remained closed to visitor vehicle traffic through September. The Northeast Entrance opened to regular visitor traffic on Oct. 15, and the North Entrance opened on Oct. 30 – incredible achievements, but too late to resuscitate the 2022 season.

Afternoon Old Faithful Eruption from the Observation Deck at the Old Faithful Inn

Courtesy N.P.S. & Jacob Frank

The park hosted 3,290,242 recreation visits in 2022, down 32% from 2021, the busiest year on record.

The list below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years:

  • 2022 – 3,290,242
    • The park was closed from June 13 through June 21. The East, West, and South Entrances opened on June 22. The North and Northeast Entrances couldn’t open until October.
  • 2021 – 4,860,242
  • 2020 – 3,806,306
    • The park was closed from March 24 through May 17 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wyoming entrances (East and South) opened on May 18, and the Montana entrances (North, West, and Northwest) followed on June 1.
  • 2019 – 4,020,288
  • 2018 – 4,115,000
  • 2017 – 4,116,524
Yellowstone Flood Recovery Event: Cam Sholly briefing the press

Courtesy N.P.S. & Jacob Frank

Nevertheless, 2022 was an astonishingly productive year in Yellowstone, with many infrastructure successes that will improve the visitor experience for many decades to come.

Despite the destruction, Yellowstone and its partners – the National Park Service, the States of Wyoming and Montana, the Wyoming and Montana Departments of Transportation, and several others – accomplished what many thought impossible by restoring access to two entrances after the roads were utterly destroyed. And they did it before the end of the same summer.

Hopefully, Yellowstone National Park can anticipate some semblance of a “normal” season in 2023. But that “normal” may mean setting a new visitation high, like the record set in 2021 once the pandemic ended.

For now, having all five entrances open on-time and stay open all-season seems like a reasonable – and attainable – goal for Summer 2023.

More information about park visitation, including how the National Park Service calculates the numbers, is available on the N.P.S. Stats website.

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