Some national parks across the country crowded with tourists – and the data shows it.
More than 297 million people visited national parks in 2021, the National Parks Service said on Wednesday, February 16th. This is 60 million more than in 2020.
In 44 of the country’s 63 national parks, tourists broke attendance records out of the water.
Parks such as Zion, Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone and Grand Canyon had a record number of visitors in 2021.
Zion National Park in Utah overtook Yellowstone Park as the second most visited park in the country, while Yellowstone saw millions of visitors per month for the first time. The leader was the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 14.1 million visitors.
In 2021, three national park service facilities were visited by more than 10 million visitors, and 11 – more than 5 million.
While it may seem that attendance across the country is growing, this is not the case, park rangers said. Overall, the number of visits has not returned to the level before the pandemic, the National Parks Service said.
“Although some of the most famous national parks again had record numbers of visits in 2021, the number across the national park system remained below the overall pre-pandemic figures,” the National Parks Service said in a press release. “Of the 423 parks in the national park system, only 25 received more than 50 percent of the total 297.1 million visits to the recreation system in 2021.”
While this trend may seem unexpected to people who have watched tourists flock to parks on social media, the National Parks Service has been expecting this.
Jenny Anselma-Sarles, assistant director of communications for the National Parks Service, told McClatchy News in mid-2021 that while attendance at the most popular parks seemed to be rising, lesser-known parks were not following that trend.
“We anecdotally observe record levels of attendance at many of the most popular national parks, and these places are big parks that you think of as Yellowstone and Yosemite, Grand Teton and Acadia, the Great Smoky Mountains,” Anselma-Sarles said. McClatchy News in June.
Officials at some parks are beginning to shift their focus to developing short-term and long-term solutions to protect parks while visiting some boom areas.
Representatives of the park focus on how more people who visit the area affect the resources, staff and infrastructure of the park. It can also affect cities near the park.
Parks also continue to change as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Some national parks such as Arches and Rocky mountainworked with disabilities or implemented booking by check-in time a system that helps reduce crowds in crowded areas.
“We’re excited to see so many visitors returning to iconic parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, but there are hundreds more that should be on everyone’s list,” National Parks Service Director Chuck Sams said in a release.