Some national parks might be overrun by long lines, no parking and overcrowded attractions this summer.
The National Park Service said it’s expecting one of the busiest summer seasons on record this year after the coronavirus pandemic halted many vacation plans in 2020.
Before the summer even started, some national parks shattered their visitation records.
At Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, visitation was up nearly 50% from the same time in 2019, according to the National Park Service.
More than 87,700 people visited the popular mountainous park in April, compared to 59,000 in April 2019.
“Park staff are working to provide quality visitor experiences as a predicted busy summer season approaches,” Grand Teton officials said in a May 20 news release. “Visitors to the park are highly encouraged to plan ahead and recreate responsibly in order to make the most of their visit.”
Yellowstone National Park officials are echoing that statement and urging tourists to plan ahead. In April of this year, more than 67,500 people visited the park. That’s over 20,000 more than the same month in 2019.
Some gates to enter Yellowstone weren’t open to visitors in April.
“Expect long lines at entrance stations, extremely busy facilities and destinations, as well as delayed travel times due to heavy traffic and wildlife jams,” park officials said Monday in a news release.
Other national parks are seeing similar trends. Visitation was also up in Utah’s Zion and Arches national parks, according to National Park Service data.
Officials at Arches National Park in Moab turn tourists away from the park every day because it is full. At the Grand Canyon, tourists can wait in line for hours to enter the park or find parking.
How to avoid crowds
National park officials have said the best way to experience the parks during a crowded season is to plan ahead and be flexible.
Tourists can reduce the time they spend waiting at an entrance station by buying a national parks pass online before they head to a park. They should also always check the park’s website for road closures and other changes.
Additionally, no one should visit the park without knowing where they’ll stay the night, officials said. Campgrounds and hotels fill up far in advance, and camping isn’t permitted in some areas.
Being flexible on arrival times also helps reduce the amount of time spent in traffic. Going to main attractions during peak hours will likely lead to getting stuck in a crowd, park officials said.