Grand Teton National Park Set Massive New Attendance Record This Summer

by Jennifer Shea

This July brought the highest number of recreational visitors to Grand Teton National Park in park history.

The park saw an estimated 828,777 visitors in July of 2021. That represented a 9.7 percent rise over July of 2020. And it was a 6.8 percent jump from July of 2019.

Camping in Grand Teton National Park climbed 2.7 percent this July over July of 2019. Backcountry camping was up 15.4 percent. Moreover, trail use rose by 21 percent this July versus July of 2019, according to Yellowstone Insider.

Grand Teton National Park Experienced Congestion This Summer

There’s a little-realized paradox to the Grand Teton experience. While the park boasts over 200 miles of trails, per the National Park Service, most people confine themselves to within a half-mile of roads, parking areas and park facilities.

And likewise for Yellowstone National Park. That park is sprawling, spanning 2.2 million acres. But most visitors flock to within a half-mile radius of the 1,500 acres of roads in the park.

Thus, the parks, while epic, can get pretty congested as visitors pile up in the same areas. And as a result of that, reservations and daily visitor caps are likely to come up for discussion in the next month or two, Yellowstone Insider reports.

Besides the impact to the parks of overcrowding, park officials are also dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Park concessionaires are facing staffing shortages and supply-chain issues thanks to the coronavirus.

“We are actively developing defensible short and long-term solutions, with our partners, which focus on protection of park resources, improving visitor experience, and considering impacts on park staffing, infrastructure and our gateway communities and regional economies,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a press release.

Some Parks Are Already Requiring Reservations

Currently, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Glacier National Park require reservations to visit. And there may be a need for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park to implement similar requirements in the near future. Park officials believe it is possible that the waning pandemic and the recovering economy will release pent-up demand, with even more visitors flocking to the parks than did this summer.

However, some national parks are beginning to roll back their reservation requirements, ending the timed-entry system introduced this spring to battle overcrowding. The majority of the country’s 63 national parks do not require reservations.

But Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set to begin testing a reservation system at its Laurel Falls lot from Sept. 7 through Oct. 3. And Zion National Park is reportedly mulling a permit requirement for the popular Angel’s Landing trail.