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Yellowstone National Park sets August visit record |cnn-travel Gt

(CNN) – With health experts directing travelers to destinations and outdoor activities during the pandemic, U.S. national parks have been a natural magnet. Further proof of this came on Tuesday.

Yellowstone National Park set a visitation record in August, the National Park Service said in a press release.

The park hosted 921,844 recreational visits last month, the equivalent of almost the entire population of Austin, Texas, who visit it. And that was a 4.5% increase from August 2020.

Park officials say August’s previous record was set in 2017, when people gathered in Yellowstone to witness that year’s epic solar eclipse.

At the end of August of this year, Yellowstone recorded 3,590,904 visits.

That’s on track for an annual record and a 40% increase from 2020, when the park was affected by pandemic travel restrictions and was briefly closed.

Busy all summer

An influx of visitors is forcing Arches National Park in Utah to temporarily close its doors almost daily. And disappointed visitors aren’t the only consequence of overcrowding. The National Park Service is expecting one of its busiest summers on record, so Arches won’t be the only popular park where crowds might be an issue. CNN’s Lucy Kafanov reports.

This news comes as no surprise to the people who have been part of the huge waves trying to enter popular national parks all summer.

In fact, Arches always warns potential visitors that “parking lots at the trailheads can fill up before 9 a.m., forcing the park to temporarily restrict access until congestion subsides.” Its website says restricted access can take anywhere from three to five hours.

Outlook for the fall

The National Park Service says don’t count on crowds thinning too much for fall, either.

If you’re planning on enjoying Yellowstone this fall, the NPS has said you should make plans well in advance and be prepared to share the space with other travelers. A few things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Yellowstone, or other national parks for that matter:

– Most camping and accommodation reservations are already taken, and motel spaces could be at times.

– In addition, the season has been very dry in the West. Stay tuned for forest fire news as you plan your trip. Also be a careful keeper of your campfires.

– More people means more potential wildlife encounters gone wrong. The NPS says to keep a minimum of 25 meters (23 meters) from all wildlife and 100 meters (91 meters) from bears and wolves.

Top image: Tourists watch Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, last spring. (Kayla Renie / Jackson Hole News & Guide via AP)

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