Visitation in Yellowstone National Park exceeded previous records with a total of 4,257,177 million visits in 2016. This is a 3.89 percent increase from 4,097,710 visits in 2015 and a 21.17 percent increase over visits in 2014.
One of the most notable changes in visitation trends in recent years is the number of commercial tour buses entering Yellowstone’s gates. The number of buses entering in 2016 was 12,778 which was a 21.3 percent increase over 2015 entries and a 46.5 percent increase over the number of buses in 2014. Park management is currently considering options for commercial tour bus management.
Taking a longer view, the growth of visitation over the last century is impressive. One hundred years ago, 35,849 visitors came to the park shortly after automobile travel was first permitted in Yellowstone. Fifty years ago in 1966, the park saw 2,130,300 visits. Since that time, visitation has grown 99.8 percent.
“During the busiest times of the year, visitation levels in the park have led to long lines, traffic congestion, diminishing visitor experiences, and impacts on park resources,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “It’s our job to recognize the trend, how it’s affecting this magnificent park, understand our visitors, and what we may need to do to protect Yellowstone for future generations. All options are on the table.”
In August 2016, the park conducted social science studies to better understand visitors including their demographics, experiences, opinions, and preferences. The data will help park managers make decisions that reflect the experiences and needs of visitors both in the present and in the future. The results of the study are expected in spring of 2017.