The park hosted 316,662 recreation visits in October 2021, down 12% from October 2020 (359,889 visits), which was the busiest October on record.
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.
So far in 2021, the park has hosted 4,789,644 recreation visits, up 28% from the same period last year, and up 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
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
All roads in Yellowstone, with one exception, are now closed to automobile traffic until late April. The exception is the road from the park’s North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Montana, which is open year-round, weather-permitting.
Conditions permitting, most park roads will open to oversnow travel (snowmobiles and snowcoaches) on December 15, 2021. Visit Explore in Winter for details.
If you plan to travel to Yellowstone this winter, have flexible travel plans, prepare for changing winter-weather conditions and anticipate limited services.
More data on park visitation, including how we calculate these numbers, is available on the NPS Stats website.