The numbers are in: August 2021 Yellowstone visitation is another record month, as almost a million people visit America’s first national park.
All in all, Yellowstone National Park hosted 921,844 recreation visits in August 2021, making it the most-visited August on record. This represents a 4.5 percent increase from August 2020 (881,829 recreational visits) and a 12 percent increase from August 2019 (820,006 recreation visits).
The previous August record came in 2017, when interest in viewing a solar eclipse led to 916,166 recreation visits.
That August would be a busy month was a foregone conclusion for anyone spending any time in the park. It’s also part of the larger trend of Yellowstone visitation continuing to trend up. So far in 2021, the park has hosted 3,590,904 recreation visits, up 40 percent from the same period last year (which may not be a fair comparison, with not all gates open all summer) and up 15 percent from 2019. The trend can be seen in the year-to-date (through August) numbers for recreation visits over the last several years:
2021 – 3,590,904
2020 – 2,556,528
2019 – 3,114,697
2018 – 3,136,241
2017 – 3,232,707
2016 – 3,269,024
The issue of how to manage these visitation levels has been raised in the past few months by Yellowstone and Grand Teton officials. The visitation records point to one of the underlying paradoxes regarding both Grand Teton and Yellowstone, but especially Yellowstone. Though geographically Yellowstone National Park is huge — some 2.2 million acres, larger than both Delaware and Rhode Island — the vast majority of visitors limit themselves to within a half mile from the 1,500 acres of roads, parking areas and facilities. That means you have plenty of areas of congestion — Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims and Lamar Valley — with the rest of the park free of humans. We expand on these trends here and note that reservations are now required in two busy national parks. Look for those discussions to continue.
Photo of crowds at Old Faithful by Jacob W. Frank, taken Sept. 13, 2021, courtesy National Park Service.
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