MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – Yellowstone National Park hosted 872,695 recreation visits in September 2021. This is a 4% increase from September 2020 (837,114 recreation visits) and a 26% increase from September 2019 (693,118 recreation visits).
This is the busiest September on record and the first time the park hosted over 4 million visitors year-to-date.
So far in 2021, the park has hosted 4,463,599 recreation visits, up 32% from the same period last year, and up 17% from 2019.
The list below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years (through September):
2021 – 4,463,599
2020 – 3,393,642*
2019 – 3,807,815
2018 – 3,860,695
2017 – 3,872,775
2016 – 3,970,778
“Never in Yellowstone’s history have we seen such substantial visitation increases in such a short amount of time,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We will continue working with our teams and partners to develop and implement appropriate short- and long-term actions for managing increasing visitation across the park. My thanks to our teams here for working through a record visitation year, especially with the continued workforce challenges presented by COVID-19.”
Affected areas: developed corridors
Yellowstone’s road corridors and parking areas equate to less than 1,750 (0.079%) acres of the park’s 2.2 million acres. Most visitors stay within a half mile of these corridors.
Visitor use strategy
Yellowstone’s visitor use strategy, developed in 2019, focuses on the impacts of increasing visitation on: 1) park resources; 2) staffing, infrastructure and operations; 3) visitor experience; and 4) gateway communities, including economic and recreational access. The park is concentrating on the most congested areas including Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims, and Lamar Valley.
The park has developed a comprehensive resource tool to monitor and respond to impacts on resources. The park piloted an AV shuttle system in 2021, moving over 10,000 visitors at Canyon Village and testing technology that could be used in the future. A major shuttle feasibility study is underway to analyze the viability of a shuttle system in the Midway Geyser Basin corridor. The park is also taking advantage of data derived from recent major visitor surveys and transportation studies to inform future decisions and is working closely with Grand Teton National Park on future solutions since both parks substantially share visitation each year.
Yellowstone has completed over $100 million in projects over the past two years 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.
Plan your visit
If you plan to travel to Yellowstone this autumn, check the road and weather conditions, plan ahead and recreate responsibly to protect yourself and the park. Stay informed about changes to park operations and services by downloading the NPS Yellowstone app and visiting www.nps.gov/yell or the park’s social media channels.
More data on park visitation, including how we calculate these numbers, is available on the NPS Stats website.
Editor’s note: *The park was closed March 24-May 18, 2020, due to COVID-19. Two entrances were open May 18-31 and the remaining three opened on June 1.