Traffic through the valley continues to increase in no small part over the last handful of years due to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. Grand Teton National Park welcomed a record number of visitors in 2015. The park received over 4.6 million visits, an 8.2 percent increase from the previous record of 4.3 million visits set in 2014. The most significant increases came in the months of September and October when total visitation increased 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the previous year.
The increase in visitation was also reflected in recreational visitation, a metric which excludes travelers through the park who are not seeking to enjoy the park and its resources such as commuters and delivery trucks. The park recorded 3.1 million recreational visits in 2015, the first time that metric exceeded 3 million since a new recreational visitation accounting system was implemented in 1992. For information about visitation statistics and how they are calculated, CLICK HERE.
The record visitation means that park staff have the opportunity to reach a larger audience and fulfill the National Park Service centennial goal to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates. However, the increased visitation has a significant impact on park resources, staff, facilities, and other park visitors’ experience.
By way of example, park rangers, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians responded to 10 percent more calls for assistance as compared to 2014. Parking at popular visitor destinations such as Jenny Lake, Lupine Meadows, and String Lake often exceeded capacity causing resource damage and visitor frustration. In addition, the significant increases in visitation during the shoulder season months of September and October came during the time of year when park facilities are shutting down and staffing levels are much lower.
Park managers expect further visitation increases during 2016 in connection with the National Park Service centennial and are working on ways to improve visitation management and visitor facilities both in the short term and long term. Expanded interpretive services for diverse audiences, the Jenny Lake Renewal Project, and the Moose-Wilson Corridor Comprehensive Management Plan are examples of these initiatives.