During the COVID-19 pandemic, people couldn’t resist the urge to get outside. It was the perfect way to social distance and get out of the house in a safer way.
While 2020 caused COVID-19 closures from the National Park Service and therefore a drop in visitors, 2021 is coming back with a vengeance. At the same time, there were 15 parks that set visitation records in 2020, according to USA Today. It caused some parks last year to shuffle around in popularity.
Yellowstone National Park Popularity
Now, both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park set new visitor records this year. While many national parks were hotspots this last year, these two major parks attracted an absurdly high number of eager visitors ready to take in the mountains, wildlife, and the overall great outdoors.
Yellowstone is always a top pick for people. Last year the park was No. 2 in recreational visits behind the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
According to Billings Gazette, Yellowstone had 40% more travelers, which equates to about 19,000 more people than in April 2019. There were 67,000 recreational visitors that passed through the two entrances to the park. Previously, this was a record of about 59,000.
For Yellowstone, as well as many other national parks, summer is the most popular season in terms of visitor attendance. Officials for the park urged people to either expect the crowds or try to come at less busy times of the day. Visitors could even avoid the most hot-spot tourist attractions as well, like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring.
All in all, this is something park officials, and likely most visitors knew was going to happen this past season.
“I predicted a record season, and I think we’re on track for that … At some point you have got to look at what the capacity of your staff is … It can’t be a free for all….There’s a lot we can do to ensure we focus on the resource areas with the highest visitation,” the park’s superintendent Cam Sholly said.
Grand Teton and Park Safety
As for Grand Teton not too far away, they set records as well in April. There were more than 87,700 visitors, which is a 48% increase from last year at the same time. Glacier National Park also had a larger-than-usual number of visitors, but not more than their all-time record of 55,000 in April 2016. The park hit 53,000, which is up 50% from last year. National Park Week also happened to be in April, which surely attracted more visitors.
All visitation numbers are available on the NPS site, here.
If you want to visit a park, crowds are going to be the standard. This means that the NPS is still enforcing masks for those that are not fully vaccinated in order to keep people safe. Yellowstone hired more seasonal employees that are vaccinated and campgrounds are only available with a reservation now.
According to USA Today, there were more than 60 of the NPS’s 423 sites closed during the peak of the pandemic.