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Yellowstone National Park saw fewer visitors last year than the year prior, though visitation spiked in the later months of 2020.

There were 3,806,000 recreation visits in the park in 2020 — 5% fewer than in 2019. The last time the numbers dipped below 4,000,000 was in 2014, when the park hosted just above 3,500,000 recreation visits.

Overall visitation dropped in 2020 largely due to the COVID-19 shutdown this spring. Other parks also saw declines — Grand Teton National Park was down about 3% for the year, and Glacier National Park’s visitation dropped by 44%.

Meanwhile, Montana State Parks saw record visitation in 2020. State parks recorded more than 3.4 million visitors, a 29.5% increase over 2019.

Yellowstone closed its entrances in March and kept them closed throughout April to prevent the spread of the virus. It gradually reopened to visitors in May and June.

Though overall visitation dipped in the spring, visitation picked up slightly in July. July 2020 was the park’s fifth-busiest July on record. The park saw approximately 941,000 visits that month — slightly fewer than in July 2017.

The uptick accelerated in August. That month turned out to be the park’s second-busiest August on record, 7.5% busier than the August prior. The park’s record busiest August was in 2017, when visitors flocked to see a total solar eclipse.

The surge in visitation continued through September and October, which both set records for visitation.

The park recorded approximately 837,000 recreation visits in September — up 21% from the September prior. The numbers exceeded the park’s second busiest September in 2018 by 15.6%.

October brought approximately 360,000 visitors to the park — 110% more visits than recorded in October 2019. It exceeded the previous record in 2015 by 43%.

Yellowstone closed most of its roads in November, but reopened them to over snow travel on Dec. 15.

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.

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