US national parks’ growing popularity prompts warning

Parks tell visitors to plan ahead as rise in visitors creates traffic, congestion

US national parks' growing popularity prompts warning

Spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains and ... traffic. Lots of it.

U.S. national parks have never been more popular than they are right now amid the pandemic.

With the ongoing public health crisis in mind, many Americans have been flocking to national parks to enjoy the great outdoors while on vacation. The peak of summer travel in the U.S. may still be weeks away from its peak, but a record number of people have already been visiting the parks.

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The National Park Service (NPS) says that Yellowstone National Park saw a nearly 11% increase in visitors from 2019. And just down the road, Grand Teton National Park saw its visits increase by 30% last month from 2019, setting a new record.

NPS officials say outdoor activities like camping, back-country camping and hiking have all become significantly more popular over the last year.

Some parks are even requiring reservations just to drive down roads or journey along trails. Park rangers across the nation are all issuing the same warning: be mindful of when you visit a national park amid this surge of park guests.

“Our most popular destinations are already congested,” said park ranger Dana Soehn. “So people need to choose wisely about the time of day that they come to visit, they need to choose wisely about the destination itself and they need to think about the time of the week, so that they can have the experience that they’re hoping for and not simply sitting in traffic.”

If you’re considering visiting one of the 63 national parks this summer, be sure to plan ahead. Check to see if you need reservations, and have a backup plan if parks are already full.

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About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.