Yellowstone National Park South Entrance, Yellowstone visitation

Yellowstone Visitation Up Past 3.8 Million

Yellowstone National Park saw the busiest September on record this year, making this the busiest year on record.

In fact, it might break four million visitors, which would be entirely unprecedented.

680,213 visitors came to Yellowstone in September, a 19 percent increase over September 2014. Yellowstone also saw its busiest July this year, when 980,702 visitors rolled through the Park. You can read the full numbers below:

Month Recreational Visits 2015 Recreational Visits 2014
Change
January 28,091 26,778 +4.9%
February 34,343 28,233 +21.64%
March 22,989 18,778 +22.43%
April 46,600 31,356 +48.61%
May 383,670 310,039 +23.75%
June 780,768 669,642 +16.59%
July 980,702 858,856 +14.19%
August 854,409 773,357 +10.48%
September 680,213 571,764 +18.97%
Total Year-To-Date
3,814,178 3,288,804 +15.97%

Yellowstone visitation overall is up over 16 percent, standing strong at over 3.8 million. If this pattern holds, and if this October proves to be busy, Yellowstone visitation could exceed four million. Yellowstone’s last visitation record was 3.6 million visitors in 2010.

In fact, we think it’s likely, given that last October was the busiest October for Yellowstone visitation.

From the Cody Enterprise:

Yellowstone spokeswoman Julena Campbell said the busy year has been obvious based on long lines at entrances and in parking lots around Yellowstone.

“Just moving around the park, you could feel how busy it was, you could see it,” she said.

Campbell said it wasn’t clear whether the increased numbers “are an anomaly or the new normal.”

But the bigger crowds in September appear to be part of a well-defined trend in Yellowstone that has been building for some time.

For the decade from 2000-09, Yellowstone saw an average of 416,481 visitors during September. Since 2010, September has averaged 570,727 visitors, an average increase of 37 percent.

This trend is not unprecedented. Montana and Wyoming tourism boards, along with local officials, have been promoting fall as a superb time to visit Yellowstone. And indeed, it is, between the cool weather and beautiful fall colors and the relative peace compared to summer’s hectic drive.

The effect of increased Yellowstone visitation has been felt all across the board, in and outside the Park. Campbell reported Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk will be visiting gateway communities in the next few months to discuss alleviating traffic and accommodating what might be the new standard for Yellowstone visitors.

In addition, Park County, Wyoming has seen an 11 percent increase in lodging taxes at the Park’s East Entrance, between January and July 2015.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts saw an uptick in gift shop and restaurant attendance, to say nothing of lodging.

And finally, the increase in visitors has seen a decrease in available parking, with some desperate visitors parking along the road for lack of a better option. In spite of infrastructure concerns, the Park has received a windfall from increased visitation, pulling in an additional $4.5 million, thanks in part to their increased entrance fees.

Finally, just as a reminder: most of Yellowstone National Park’s visitor infrastructure is set to close mid-October, and every road except the North and Northeast Entrance roads will close November 2. The winter Yellowstone season will start December 15.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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