Yellowstone: Over One Million Visits in July 2021
Written by Andrew-Rossi on August 19, 2021
1,080,767 people visited Yellowstone National Park in July 2021, the single busiest month in the park’s history – but does this mean change is imminent?
Continuing a strong trend of record-breaking attendance, July 2021 saw a flood of tourists enter Yellowstone. But the month’s numbers are staggering, even by record-breaking standards.
Yellowstone National Park hosted 1,080,767 recreation visits in July 2021, making it the most-visited July on record. This is a 13% increase from July 2020 (955,645 recreational visits) and a 15% increase from July 2019 (936,062 recreation visits.)
Furthermore, the park has hosted 2,668,765 recreation visits to date. That’s up 16% from 2019.
2021 is blowing year-to-date visitation out of the water. The list below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years (through July):
- 2021 – 2,668,765
- 2020 – 1,674,699*
- 2019 – 2,294,691
- 2018 – 2,322,271
- 2017 – 2,316,541
- 2016 – 2,427,988
*2020 isn’t a good comparison due to spring closures due to COVID-19
Yellowstone has experienced the busiest September, October, April, May, June, and July in the timeframe of a year.
“Increases to Yellowstone’s visitation have accelerated rapidly over the past 12 months, and we continue to be on pace to set record numbers for 2021,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We are actively developing defensible short and long-term solutions, with our partners, which focus on the protection of park resources, improving the visitor experience, and considering impacts on park staffing, infrastructure, and our gateway communities and regional economies.”
Due to increased visitation, many national parks are implemented timed entries to reduce visitor traffic and congestion. This transition has been simultaneously met with praise and controversy.
During a press conference held with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Friday, August 13, Superintendent Sholly was asked if Yellowstone could transition to a timed entry system. Sholly suggested that anything is on the table, but timed entry isn’t in the park’s immediate future.
It isn’t the first time the question has come up. Sholly made a point to discuss timed entry during the annual “State of the Parks” address at the Cody Club Lunch in May 2021.
For Sholly, the difference between Yellowstone and other national parks is its size and extensive network of roads.
Yellowstone’s road corridors and parking areas equate to less than 1,500 acres of the park’s 2.2 million acres. And Yellowstone has 251 miles of roads.
Studies are ongoing at the park’s most crowded locations, as they have the most congestion. Those locations are Old Faithful, the Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, the rims of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Lamar Valley.
Yellowstone officials are currently studying the viability of a shuttle system between Old Faithful and the Midway Geyser Basin. Meanwhile, active trials of driverless shuttles are ongoing at Canyon Village.
The park also uses data derived from recent major visitor surveys and transportation studies to inform future decisions. To that end, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are working together towards future solutions since both parks substantially share visitation each year.