Yellowstone: October 2021 Was Busy - But Not the Busiest

Yellowstone: October 2021 Was Busy – But Not the Busiest

Written by on November 10, 2021

The streak ends – October 2021 in Yellowstone National Park sees hundreds of thousands of visitors but not enough to topple the record set in 2020.

Month after month in 2021, Yellowstone National Park has seen record-breaking visitation – including July, the single busiest month in the park’s history. But while October 2021 was busy, it won’t be joining the record books.

Yellowstone officials released the visitation statistics for October 2021 on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

In October 2021, Yellowstone National Park hosted 316,662 recreation visits – high but not high enough to surpass October 2020.

October 2021’s number is down 12% from the 359,889 visits recorded in October 2020. As a result, October 2020 remains the busiest October on record.

Nevertheless, 2021 met or surpassed everyone’s expectations. In a single year, Yellowstone experienced its busiest April, May, June, July, August, and September.

However, recreation visits this October were up 85% from October 2019 (171,339 visits). Several short-term, weather-related road closures likely impacted visitation in 2019.

Yellowstone hike near Saddle Mountain (Aug 2021)

Courtesy National Park Service & Jacob Frank

Meanwhile, Yellowstone’s year-to-date visitation probably won’t cross five million this year – but it’ll get close.

So far, in 2021, the park has hosted 4,789,644 recreation visits. This number is up 28% from the same period last year and 20% from 2019.

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

  • 2021 – 4,789,644
  • 2020 – 3,753,531
  • 2019 – 3,979,154
  • 2018 – 4,078,771
  • 2017 – 4,084,762
  • 2016 – 4,212,782

The likelihood of Yellowstone seeing another 200,000 visitors in November and December is very slim. All interior roads in the park closed early on Nov. 6, leaving only the North Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs open to visitation.

This influx of visitation leads to continued concerns on how more people will impact the delicate natural features that draw so many to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone’s road corridors and parking areas equate to less than 1,750 (0.079%) acres of the park’s 2.2 million acres. Yet, most visitors stay within a half-mile of these corridors.

Yellowstone’s visitor use strategy, developed in 2019, focuses on the impacts of increasing visitation on:

  • Park resources
  • Staffing, infrastructure, and operations
  • Visitor experience
  • Gateway communities, including economic and recreational access.

Park officials are concentrating their efforts on the most congested areas: Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, the Canyon rims, and Lamar Valley.

Yellowstone officials already have a comprehensive resource tool developed to monitor and respond to current and future impacts on the park’s resources.

This year, park officials piloted an AV shuttle system, moving over 10,000 visitors at Canyon Village and testing technology that could be used in the future. In addition, a significant shuttle feasibility study is underway to analyze the viability of a shuttle system in the Midway Geyser Basin corridor.

The park will also use data from recent major visitor surveys and transportation studies to inform their future decisions. In addition, Yellowstone officials are working closely with Grand Teton National Park on mutually beneficial solutions since both parks share a substantial number of visitors each year.

Over the past two years, $100 million has been invested in projects to improve transportation infrastructure, reduce traffic congestion and enhance visitor experiences.

Substantial additional investments will continue in 2022 and 2023 in multiple areas of the park as part of funding received from the Great American Outdoors Act.

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