MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY — Yellowstone National Park hosted 4,860,537 recreation visits in 2021, which is up 28 percent from 2020 (3,806,306 visits), making it the busiest year on record.
In 2021, visitation for May, June, July, August, and September were the busiest on record. July was also the most-visited month on record in Yellowstone’s history and the first time visitation exceeded 1 million visits in a single month, according to the park’s public affairs office.
The list below shows the year-to-date trend for recreation visits over the last several years:
2021 – 4,860,537
2020 – 3,806,306
*2019 – 4,020,288
2018 – 4,115,000
2017 – 4,116,524
2016 – 4,257,177
*The park was closed March 24-May 18, 2020, due to COVID-19. Two entrances were open May 18-31 and the remaining three opened on June 1.
Although the park accurately counted 4.86 million visits in 2021, a close analysis of visitor use data shows that over 350,000 vehicles re-entered the park in 2021 compared to 2019 (before COVID-19). This is likely due to approximately 20 percent fewer overnight stays in the park during the year, the according to the press release.
Due to a variety of factors including construction projects and COVID-19, the park had approximately 20 percent fewer campsites and hotel rooms available in 2021 compared to previous years, the press release states. This translated to more visitors leaving the park to overnight elsewhere and then returning than in previous years.
Additionally, statistical categories the park tracked, including trail counters, tonnage of trash, water usage, and public safety calls, showed visitor-use levels more comparable to 2019, when the park counted 4 million visits. The park is evaluating improved software that can more reliably and accurately differentiate new visits versus the same visitors entering the park multiple times.
More data on park visitation, including how we calculate these numbers, is available on the NPS Stats website.