Yellowstone National Park posted another record month in October to close out its 2020 summer season, shattering the previous record for that month with more than 110,000 additional people visiting this year.
In total, the Park hosted 360,034 recreation visits during the month, up 110% from October 2019. The previous October record was set in 2015, when 252,013 people came through the gates.
It was also the busiest October on record at the East Entrance with 12,182 people visiting. This was nearly double the number of people who came through the gate in 2019. The previous record was 11,609 set in 2015.
The East and South entrances outside Cody and Jackson were the first two gates to open in Yellowstone to the public last spring. All five entrances were open by June 1, but attendance was substantially down for that month.
After an exceptionally slow start to the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Park finished only 6% lower than its 2019 total for visitation, reaching 3,743,907 for 2020. This was 235,246 fewer people than came through the Park’s entrances in 2019.
Yellowstone also had its busiest September on record this year and second busiest August.
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said he learned in conversations with visitors, that “a variety of different factors” led to them choosing Yellowstone as a destination this year, including the Park’s social distance-friendly environment, and new, remote flexibility in their work and school commitments.
“We definitely saw a different visitation pattern this fall compared to last year,” he said in October. “It’s unquestionably been busy.”
This will be the second consecutive year Yellowstone failed to top four million annual visitors through October after four consecutive years of reaching that benchmark from 2015-2018. The busiest Park year on record was 2016 when 4,257,177 people came to the Park during the year.
Since early November, nearly every road in Yellowstone has been closed to automobile traffic and will remain closed until early April.
The road from the Park’s North Entrance at Gardiner through Mammoth Hot Springs to the Northeast Entrance and Cooke City is open year-round, weather permitting.
Conditions permitting, most Park roads will re-open to oversnow travel on Dec. 15.
Yellowstone is considering increasing its winter travel season over Sylvan Pass by 20 days on both ends of the season. The move would push the current opening from Dec. 22 to Dec. 15, and bump the current closing date from March 2 to March 15. These proposed dates would align the winter season from the East Entrance with the rest of the Park.
In the past, avalanche concerns on Sylvan Pass led to the different operating seasons, but, “with many years of implementation, the NPS now has the operational capacity and expertise to safely open the pass on December 15 and to keep it open until March 15,” the Park said in a press release.