Midway Geyser Basin crowds, NPS

Yellowstone fire danger now rated very high

With the summer season upon us and anecdotal evidence of crowds returning, it’s important to note that the Yellowstone fire danger is now currently rated as very high by the National Park Service.

We don’t know precisely how many folks are visiting Yellowstone these days: the National Park Service has not published Yellowstone visitation numbers for July. The last June numbers showed an uptick in visitation at the end of the month, just before the big Fourth of July weekend, and there are anecdotal reports of visitation being the highest of the year in July and early August. If it’s any indication, Grand Teton National Park hosted an estimated 755,762 recreation visits in July 2020–just a 3 percent decrease compared to July 2019. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic impacting foreign travel, Grand Teton officials say July 2020 has the fourth highest number of recreation visits on record for the month of July. 

According to Grand Teton officials, most hiking trails in the park have increased daily traffic and all campgrounds in the park are filling earlier each day when comparing this summer to previous years. In general, hiking use in the park has increased approximately 13 percent and camping in concession-operated campgrounds increased 2 percent, with backcountry camping up 13 percent in July 2020 compared to July 2019. 

With visitation perhaps running higher than all of us anticipating a few months ago, it’s important to note that the Yellowstone fire danger is now rated as being very high by National Park Service officials. There are no current wildfires — two small fires caused by fires have already burned out — and no fire restrictions in place. The weather report is actually encouraging: moderate temperatures in the forecast and no thunderstorms on the horizon (only a small chance of a daily outburst).

Photo of crowds at the Midway Geyser Basin by Jacob W. Frank, courtesy National Park Service.

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