When U.S. National Parks become crowded like Disneyland, are they still worth visiting? Many of the most popular parks are experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand as lockdown-weary Americans head for the great outdoors.
Crowded National Parks Overwhelmed By Visitors
Show up at Arches National Park this summer in Grand County, Utah and you will may be met with a line of cars a mile long and wait times topping two hours to gain access. That’s if you show up before 9:00am. Show up much later and you will be turned away. Visitors are up 15% over 2019 levels. In nearby Canyonland National Park, visitors are up 30%. In Dead Horse Point State Park, visitors have doubled over 2019 levels. Yellowstone National Park vehicle traffic is up 50%
Many of the visitors are first-time visitors and lack manners (to put it bluntly). For example, Moab, UT residents have found human refuse and trash strewn about and last week a wildfire was started by a man-made campfire that was left unattended. It ended up burning over 5,000 acres and requiring the evacuation of two towns. Graffiti is also popping up and people do not follow sings.
I love this quote from Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt of the Bureau of Land Management that appeared in the Wall Street Journal:
“People could be parked right next to a sign that says ‘closed to camping’ and they’re just like, ‘But the app said it was open,’”
Now there is no doubt that many beautiful U.S. National Parks go overlooked, but reading about the crowds and lines and trash frankly makes me want to stay away.
I’d rather just work on my own garden then stand in lines in the summer heat and jostle with people with selfie sticks for prime views.
In fact, I’ve convinced myself…I’m not going to any national parks this summer. There’s always winter, though.
Part of me feels like I am missing out by not going to U.S. National Parks on a regular basis (I’ve actually been to many across the country during my lifetime). But as much as I’d like to show my family the beauty around us, it frankly sounds like more trouble than its worth these summer months.
Are you heading out to national parks this summer? If so, what is your strategy to avoid the crowds?