Despite a COVID-19 pandemic that saw several lodges and many services shut down, 2020 Yellowstone visitation was down just 5 percent over 2019, as visitors saw the park as a safe refuge in troubling times.
The opening of Yellowstone National Park in 2020 was delayed once it became apparent that the spread of COVID-19 requires changes in operations for both concessionaires and National Park Service officials. Working in conjunction with local and state health officials, the decision was made to open two Wyoming entrances on May 18, followed by the three Montana entrances opening on June 1. The rest of the summer season ran on schedule, and the winter season opened on time as well, albeit with some limitations: rooms were limited to units with their own bathrooms (that means much of Old Faithful Inn was closed, as well as all of the Roosevelt Lodge cabins), food was pretty much limited to grab and go, and visitor centers were closed. For the winter season, Old Faithful Snow Lodge has remained closed, leaving the Mammoth hotel as the only lodging open within Yellowstone.
Despite those issues, visitation was down only 5 percent over 2020, and in fact visitation records were set in September and October. Here’s a list of recreational visitation numbers for the past several years, per the National Park Service:
2020 – 3,806,305
2019 – 4,020,288
2018 – 4,115,000
2017 – 4,116,524
2016 – 4,257,177
2015 – 4,097,710
As of now the plan is for services and lodges to be fully open in 2021, but that is surely a tentative plan: while Yellowstone was a relatively safe environment in 2020, much of that safety derived from vast portions of services being closed. And let’s not forget an early closure of Old Faithful Snow Lodge came after an outbreak of COVID-19 in that facility. So stay tuned as we get close to April, as we will have more data on how America and the greater Yellowstone region is dealing with COVID-19.
Photo of Snow Lodge gift shop courtesy National Park Service.
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