National Park Visitors Number in the Millions This Year, Break Records

For the first time, Yellowstone recorded more than 4 million visitors in a year.

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The pandemic brought a new appreciation for spending time outdoors. Fresh air and open spaces promised a bit more safety and one of the few opportunities to spend time out of the house in 2020. In 2021, the pandemic continued to affect daily life, but even as some things started to return to normal, the widespread love for spending time outdoors didn't fade.

In September, Yellowstone National Park had already set an attendance record, with 872,695 guests, which was a 4% increase from the same month in 2020. The numbers recorded in September pushed Yellowstone to over 4 million visitors in a single year, the first time the park has ever recorded that number of visitors. In 2016, the park recorded almost 4 million visitors but didn't hit that number.

Grand Teton reported 3,493,937 recreational visitors between January and September of this year, surpassing 2018's January to December record by 2,786. Trail use has increased by about 29% from 2019 and up 49% from 2016.

"2021 has been a record-setting year for visitation in Grand Teton National Park, but it's more than just the numbers. We are seeing changing patterns and behavior including more people in the backcountry and more visitors in the 'shoulder season,'" Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Chip Jenkins said in a press release.

Park officials credit the increased visitorship partially to visitors coming in all seasons, not just specific times of years. And while park officials appreciate the enthusiasm, the high volume of visitors does mean that the parks are more vulnerable to human interference, so make sure that you're leaving no trace and taking care of the beautiful nature you're there to see. 

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.