Parks experience big numbers again in 2017

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks are boasting big years for attendance in 2017. For Grand Teton, it was the fourth straight year of record-setting visitation. Yellowstone saw a slight drop from 2016 but it was still the second-busiest year on record.

Grand Teton National Park’s 2017 visitation set a record for the fourth consecutive year. The park received over 4.9 million total visits, a 3 percent increase from the previous record set in 2016.

GTNP visitation table

Predictably, summer was high time. Gate tallies hit monthly records in June, August, September, and October. August, which included the total solar eclipse viewable from throughout the park, had 65,000 more visits than the previous record August of 2015.

The record visitation is part of a longer term upward trend which has seen park visitation increase by over 1 million visits, or 27 percent, during the past five years. The record is also part of a nationwide trend, which has brought record numbers to national parks across the country.

The busy year for the park was highlighted by the total solar eclipse on August 21. The park saw a significant increase in visitation on the days leading up to the eclipse, as well as the day following the event. Park managers estimate the long weekend was the busiest period in the park’s history. Park concession-operated campgrounds were near capacity, and for the first time in park history, all backcountry permits were issued for three days straight.

Yellowstone saw more growth in 2017. Park is taking measures to study overcrowding. (NPS)

Yellowstone National Park experienced the second busiest year on record in 2017. The park recorded 4,116,525 visits, a decrease from 2016. Last year was a record year for visitation with 4,257,177 visits to the park. Since 2008, annual visitation to Yellowstone has increased by close to 40 percent.

Yellowstone officials are concerned with the high volumes of visitors and are looking for answers to questions like:

  • How can the park prepare for a future in which visitation continues to increase?
  • How does the increased visitation affect park resources and visitor experiences?
  • What do people expect when they come to Yellowstone?
  • How do people move through the park?

To that end, the park commissioned two studies during the summer of 2016.

“These studies mark the beginning of our efforts to understand visitation and develop strategies to meet the challenges it presents,” said Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk. “In 2018 and 2019, we intend to gather more information in order to make informed decisions about visitation.”

Park visitation numbers are derived from traffic counter data. The numbers recorded by these counters are run through an algorithm to determine an estimated visitation number. The methodology has been consistent since 1992, which allows park managers to compare visitation levels from year to year.

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