National Park

Yellowstone National Park welcomes 4.8 million visitors in 2021

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More than 4.8 million people visited Yellowstone National Park in 2021, park officials said.

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Tourists filled Yellowstone National Park all summer of 2021, causing long lines, little parking, and traffic jams — but that was history.

It’s been the busiest year on record for Yellowstone, according to data released by the National Park Service on Friday, January 21. Over 4.86 million people visited.

From May to September, park visitors broke attendance records. Each of the summer months has been the busiest on record.

In July, more than a million people explored Yellowstone — and it’s never happened before, park officials said.

The National Park Service also said more people were leaving and re-entering the park in 2021 compared to 2019, as fewer park nights were available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yellowstone’s visitation boom mirrors what’s happened at many of the National Park Service’s most popular sites.

Park officials predicted one of the busiest summer seasons on record in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic cut short many vacations planned for 2020.

But even before the start of summer, national parks were breaking attendance records.

“We’re anecdotally seeing record levels of visitation to many of the most popular destination national parks, and those places are the big parks you think of like Yellowstone and Yosemite and Grand Teton and Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains,” Jenny Anzelmo -Sarles, the deputy director of communications for the National Park Service, told McClatchy News in June.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly previously said the park is working to develop short- and long-term solutions to protect the park while visitation explodes.

Park officials are focusing on how park resources, staff and infrastructure are affected by the increase in the number of people visiting the area. In addition, there could be an impact on towns near the park.

“The park focuses on the most congested areas including Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin, Norris, Canyon rims and Lamar Valley,” the National Park Service said.

This story was originally published January 21, 2022 1:30 p.m.

Maddie Capron is a real-time McClatchy reporter specializing in the outdoors and wildlife in the western United States. She graduated from Ohio University and previously worked at CNN, the Idaho Statesman and the Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism.