Grand Teton National Park stayed near its highest-ever visitation levels in 2019, trailing only 2018 for numbers of tourists passing through.

That’s a trend that somewhat bucks that of its National Park Service sibling to the north, Yellowstone National Park, which had its slowest tourism year since 2014.

Teton park’s spokeswoman chalks up the continued busy times to more people coming during the historically slow shoulder seasons.

“I don’t know what to make of the difference between the two parks,” Denise Germann said, “but I do believe our shoulder seasons are expanding a little bit. In 2019, we saw record visitation in both March and August.”

For the year, Grand Teton National Park attracted 3.41 million “recreational visitors” — a category that excludes some passers-through, such as commercial truckers on Highway 26/89/191.

July, as is the custom, was the busiest month of the year, with 776,000 visitors. The nadir fell in February, followed by November and December — months that attracted fewer than 50,000 recreational visits each.

While the flow of Yellowstone tourists has fallen off slightly more, the declines have been marginal. The world’s first national park attracted a touch over 4 million recreational visitors last year, a 2.3% slip since 2018 and 5.6% down from 2016, when the National Park Service saw an all-time peak during its centennial year.

Taking a decadelong perspective, both parks are up significantly. Grand Teton visitation has increased 28% since 2010, when visitation hit 2.67 million. Yellowstone’s decadal gain was just 10%, although the bottom for tourists post-recession wasn’t until 2013.

Germann’s take is that the record visitation experienced by both parks in the latter half of the decade was linked to the centennial and 2017’s total solar eclipse, which were both big draws. Grand Teton’s peak came the year after that, in 2018, when 3.49 million visits were logged.

“I think Grand Teton continues to be a destination park for many people,” Germann said, “and not just across the country, but across the world.”

Grand Teton’s proximity to Yellowstone will always be a driver for some people, she said, with the two parks always feeding off of each other.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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