HomeOutdoorsParksA Hard Year: Yellowstone National Park Visitation Fell 32% in 2022

A Hard Year: Yellowstone National Park Visitation Fell 32% in 2022

by Jon D. B.
Yellowstone National Park 2022 visitation
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY - JUNE 22: Cars, campers and trucks line up before sunrise outside the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park waiting to gain entry to the park for the first time in more than a week on June 22, 2022 in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The park has been closed to all visitors due to severe flooding and damage to the roads. There is a limited opening today for the southern loop of the park. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

June 2022’s catastrophic flooding had a profound impact on Yellowstone visitation as the national park’s newly-released data shows.

By the National Park Service’s numbers, Yellowstone National Park (YELL) hosted 3,290,242 recreation visits in 2022. This was a stark 32% decrease from the year prior, as NPS’ 2021 data shows.

As folks returned to national parks following 2020’s pandemic closures, 2021 would become the busiest year on record for Yellowstone. Typically, YELL’s yearly visitation hovers right around 4,100,000. 2021 saw this spike by over 800,000 visitors. 2022’s flooding would drop these numbers around 600,000 below pandemic levels, however.

By the Numbers: Yellowstone’s Visitation Over the Last 6 Years

The data below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years to the Wyoming/Montana national park:  

20223,290,242 (June flood*)
20214,860,242 (visitation peak*)
20203,806,306 (Pandemic closures*)
2019 4,020,288
Data courtesy of National Park Service (NPS), Yellowstone National Park (YELL) media release to Outsider

*June 2022 Flood: Yellowstone closed to the public on June 13, and remained closed through June 21. Three entrances would re-open June 22.

*Visitation Peak: 2021 would become the busiest year on record for Yellowstone as visitors sought outdoor activities after the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

*Pandemic Closures: Yellowstone would close all public operations from March 24 through May 17, 2022 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Two entrances would re-open May 18. The remaining three would open on June 1.

Timeline: Yellowstone National Park June 2022 Flood

Last year’s mass drop in visitation was the direct result of the catastrophic Yellowstone Floods. “It’s mid-June. The busy season for Yellowstone. Not only was the park full of visitors, the gateway communities were also full,” Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told Outsider at the time.

“We had to make a decision, because of unsafe conditions, to move thousands of visitors out of northern Yellowstone and push them south into the southern loop. We had thousands of visitors stranded in the park, and in Gardiner.”

  • June 13: All park entrances closed, and visitors were evacuated over the next 24 hours.
  • June 22: The East, South and West entrances opened on a limited entry basis
  • July 2: Entry restrictions on the East, South and West entrances were removed.
  • The North (Gardiner, Montana) and Northeast (Cooke City/Silver Gate, Montana) entrances remained closed to visitor vehicle traffic through September
  • Oct. 15: The Northeast Entrance opened to regular visitor traffic
  • Oct. 30: The North Entrance opened

For more information about park visitation, including how NPS calculates visitation numbers, visit NPS’s interactive Stats website.

Looking to plan a trip to Yellowstone National Park yourself? “Yellowstone hosts around four million visits each year,” the park cites. “More than half of these visits happen during June, July and August. If you plan to come during summer, make reservations for camping or lodging as far in advance as possible: you will likely not find a spot at the last minute in the park.”