Whether it was because of the coronavirus pandemic, mild weather, or people out of work seeking solace in the outdoors, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks saw their busiest Octobers ever.
Yellowstone hosted more than 360,000 visitors, up 110% from 2019 when winter came early. The old record for October, set in 2015, was more than 252,000 visitors.
Likewise, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone’s adjoining neighbor to the south, saw more than 351,000 tourists in October, up 88% from 2019. Grand Teton’s record October visitation occurred in 2018 with more than 207,000 visitors.
To the north, Glacier National Park also recorded a big jump in October visitation despite the closure of its east entrances. Glacier recorded more than 125,000 tourists compared to 78,000 in 2018 and an average of about 85,000 over the past three years.
So far in 2020, Yellowstone has hosted 3.74 million tourists, down only 6% from the same period last year despite a delayed opening this spring due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The park was closed for health and safety reasons on March 24. The park’s two Wyoming entrances opened on May 18 and three Montana entrances opened on June 1.
The same visitation scenario is playing out in Grand Teton National Park, where 3.17 million people have visited this year compared to 3.31 million in 2019, only a 4.2% drop.
All roads in Yellowstone, with the exception of the highway between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City, are now closed to automobile traffic. The road from the park’s North Entrance to the Northeast Entrance is open year-round, weather permitting.
Conditions permitting, most park roads will open to restricted oversnow travel — snowmobiles and snowcoaches — on Dec. 15.
Visitor services at Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway are limited this time of year, as most facilities close each winter.
Although the alpine sections of Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road are closed for the season, visitors can drive 15.5 miles of the road from the west entrance to Avalanche Creek. There are no lodging or food services available in the park this time of year.
More data on National Park Service visitor-use statistics is available at irma.nps.gov/STATS/.