Monday, October 3, 2022


It’s official. We are loving our national parks to death

It’s official. We are loving our national parks to death.

The National Park Service announced last week that the 15 most popular national parks in the U.S. will set visitation records in 2021.

“It’s no secret that this summer has been one of our busiest summers ever,” said NPS chief spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles.

Timed tickets – yea or nay?

This summer, park managers got pretty creative in their efforts to stem the tide of vacationers parked at the gates. They instituted timed tickets for popular national parks like Glacier in Montana and Muir Woods in California, hoping to both control surging park traffic and preserve a small bit of the experience all of those visitors came for in the first place.

The reviews on the timed tickets – which were available on the reservation site – were mixed. Some folks opposed to the practice of timed entry actually created a petition to fight the practice, saying it was “unfair, unnecessary and undemocratic.”

The truth is hard to hear, especially for RVers who adore these places. America’s crown jewels just don’t have enough space for the backed-up masses who want in.

Apps pointing visitors other directions

It’s likely we’ll see park managers pulling out all of the stops to use everything at their disposal to deflect the hordes of tourists they are dealing with now. Expect to see things like predictive technology that would be used to anticipate where the crowds will appear next.’s site is already using an app that points people toward other public lands that might not be seeing the pressure being placed on the more popular spots. After all, the National Park Service is responsible for 423 different places in the U.S. Many are monuments and seashores off the beaten path. They can’t all be overflowing at the same time (or can they?).

Selfie platforms are here to stay

Another tool might be to better educate the masses before they show up at the parks. The “selfie crowd” has gotten so dense (pun intended) that national parks like Grand Teton and Grand Canyon had to build special “selfie platforms” in popular scenic places to keep folks from backing up into a very long-but-quick trip to the bottom. Grand Teton rangers have even been begging tourists not to geotag their photos, in hopes of keeping like-minded selfie snappers from seeking out those beautiful-but-dangerous spots.

This summer, they also tried out no-driver, autonomous buses to move people from here to there at Yellowstone and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina. Expect to see more mass transit in the parks in coming years.

What’s the answer?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, it might be the right time to check out those lesser-known national park wonders like Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park, Pinnacles National Park in California, or maybe Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

Here’s a great story from Travel+Leisure to get you started.



Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Uncle Swags
1 year ago

And to think there are no foreign visitors currently exploring our National Parks. My experience has been that they represent up to half the visitors at any given park. But I’m glad that people are interested in them and I’m willing to share. Adjust your expectations.

Carson Axtell
1 year ago

Rather than raising entrance fees, which puts less cash rich vacationers at a disadvantage, and in order to try to slow down those using bots to overbook the reservation system, I would like to see the site implement a lottery system that assigns entrance and camping passes to applicants, and that blocks excess entries from the same IP addresses so people have a fairer chance at securing a spot. This grabby/pushy “screw everyone else, I gotta get mine” game-the-system culture that is so pervasive in America today is getting real blinkin’ tiresome… Small wonder the crowds at our national parks have become so intolerable.

Last edited 1 year ago by Carson Axtell
Martha Tassi
1 year ago

We were just at Grand Teton and Yellowstone last week – both had very light crowds. There was no line to see Old Faithful and the pull-out spots to take photos had people there but were not crowded.

Diane Mc
1 year ago

Glad to see the interest in our National Parks. Glad we saw many of them before this all started. Last time in YP was 12 yrs ago at the beginning of June. It snowed, which made it all the more special. Wasn’t crowded. We have taken to visiting some of the smaller less known parks.

Dawn Adamson
1 year ago

When I first learned of the metered entry ticket system I was nervous,as our entire summer revolved around National Parks and the thought that all my trip planning would be for naught if I couldn’t secure ticket to get in was scary. We got tickets for Glacier with no problems & our visit was enjoyable. Yellowstone west entrance was a different story even after the school year had started. No metered entry and it was bumper to bumper traffic, full parking lots and after 10 days of trying we were still not able to get in at Grand Prismatic Spring. Most RV’ers spend so much time planning our routes and places to stay it’s not that much of a stretch to plan to get a metered entry ticket to a National Park. Originally I was not a fan and questioned why… I am hoping and wishing all the NP go to that system.

Roger Marble
1 year ago

We did Rockey Mt and thought the ticket entry was OK. Still a LOT of folks. To those that think it is “Un-Democratic” I would ask Exactly how? Everyone has equal opportunity to get a ticket. What would be your solution? Bumper to bumper traffic for miles on end? No room at parking lots?

Cheryl Wardell
1 year ago
1 year ago

We are fortunate to have visited all the Ntl Parks, finishing with the newest , New River Gorge Ntl Park. So, happy to have had the experience before these current times.
Now we just head to less popular but equally beautiful sites, inc what you mentioned, monuments, Historic….

Dave Helgeson
1 year ago

Mike, – “selfie crowd” has gotten so dense (pun intended) – we think alike! Love it!

Mary Ann
1 year ago

Just returned from Glacier NP. We did get a 7 day pass and the park was busy but not packed with cars. Without a pass one could enter the park very early or in the evening. Face it, the days of going where you want when you want are gone. You got to plan ahead or be flexible.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

The line in the picture looks strangely familiar. It looks like the line leading up to the summit of Mt. Everest. Luckily I saw Yellowstone and Teton back in 1979 when I rode through on my bicycle. Traffic was horrendous even back then, but I and my two friends “white lined” it through it all and had a great time. I don’t “DO” national parks anymore. The fun is gone.

1 year ago

I had the unfortunate displeasure of traveling through Teton village area pulling a 40ft fifth wheel in June and finally let the area without stopping anywhere because of bumper to bumper traffic. It was a mess.

Sharon L Boehmer
1 year ago

We were at Glacier the last 2 weeks of July. I was excited to go, got our entry ticket for the going to the sun road and we arrived at gate at 6:20am on a Tuesday. No crowds, I was happy, until I realized why there was no crowd. The number of people who “cheated” the system was unbelievable. All you needed to do was enter the park before 6am and you didn’t need the ticket, or even a parks pass. BY 9am that morning, Logan pass was closed to parking and every pull out was full for a couple of miles either direction. Add the fact that almost the entire drive was bumper to bumper, it was the only time we took that road and spent our time in other areas of the park and surrounding area.

1 year ago

If you’re ABIDING by the aspect of the system that stipulates you don’t need a pass before 6am, how is that “Cheating the system”?

Roger V
1 year ago

That’s not cheating. That Is the system.

1 year ago

re: Tourists wait in line to see one of the geysers.

I’d much rather watch a documentary about the park on PBS rather than wait in a line like the one pictured.

Wendy Ansel
1 year ago

The term “the masses” is extremely offensive. This sounds elitist. Americans have always loved their National Parks. Our population is larger than in 1960; in consequence there are more people visiting our parks. We cannot go to Canada, we cannot go to Europe. Is it a bad thing to enjoy our own country?

Richard Hughes
1 year ago

As much as I would enjoy seeing Yellowstone again, I remember the long lines of my childhood ( probably ten cars) stopping for bears. I don’t think a mile long line would do me any better today. I did get to camp at the park in the winter, with our Boy Scout Troop and that was a great experience.

1 year ago

We were just in Moab and went to Arches and Canyonland National Parks. We were expecting long waiting lines and huge crowds. Neither park had much of a line to get in and only Arches had big crowds, but there was enough parking at each viewpoint and attraction. I think If Arches had 25% more visitors it would have been too crowded, but Canyonland could have easily handled twice the crowds.

I doubt that raising the $30 entrance fee to either park would have deterred many visitors, especially with the senior discount passes.

Note that we were there the week prior to Labor Day, where it was hot and the big crowds hadn’t arrived for peak season.

1 year ago

It’s time to raise the price of admission to the national parks. This seems like an economics no-brainer. The parks are short of funds and they are overvisited. I know congress approved an increase to the admission price some years ago but there was such a public outcry the cowards backed off. They need to grow a spine and raise the admission price and give the additional money to the parks.

1 year ago
Reply to  Bill

Raising entry fees “disproportionately effects the economically disadvantaged”. You’ll have Al Sharpton marching at the gates.

Tom Horn
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard

With his hand OUT wanting donations

1 year ago
Reply to  Bill

I have to disagree. Entry fees to visit public lands already owned by us is abhorrent. Raising fees to control visitation by making it unaffordable for some is even more abhorrent. Funding National Parks is what taxes are for. Decades ago, when parks were free, there were myriad ranger programs, there was trash collection, there was free camping, etc. When the park service embarked on all sorts of expensive infrastructure projects to make the wilderness “better”, and hired hundreds and hundreds of bureaucrats to sit in their newly expanded administration buildings, they got away from the core of the National Park Service’s mission, and then started instituting fees…and more fees….to address shortages they created. What’s more, those increased fees never really address the issues. Some national parks I visit have been promising things to visitors and campers for over 20 years that have never come to fruition. The NPS needs to return to it’s roots.

Donald N Wright
1 year ago

If things aren’t bad enough, we will be having a “Travel” show in Dallas. I tend to avoid them, as when I say the words “recreational vehicle”, the agents lose interest in me.