Tourism

People gather to catch a glimpse of grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs in late May in Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton National Park has launched several studies of its tourists, who are showing up in numbers never before seen in the park’s 92-year history.

“Visitor use and experience” studies are planned at Colter Bay, Taggart Lake and the Lupine Meadows areas, and the results will provide insight into park-goers’ demographics and expectations.

Another study that’s on the docket for late this month and early August targets transportation and how visitors move around the 310,000-acre national park.

“This study will help park mangers understand the relationships among the number of vehicles entering the park and the levels of use at key areas within the park,” Teton Park officials announced in a press release. “Identifying common visitor traffic patterns and understanding how visitors disperse and move throughout the parks is also part of this study.”

To aid the effort, researchers will be surveying visitors and monitoring through mid-August.

Interest in seeing the Tetons continues to skyrocket. The National Park Service estimates that there were 752,000 visitors in the month of June 2021, a 20% jump over visitation the same month in 2019 and easily the busiest June on record. Every month of 2021 since March has smashed the prior monthly visitation record in Grand Teton National Park.

Not only did more visitors come in June, but they were also more active. Camping increased 36% in June 2021 compared to June 2019, while backcountry camping increased 73%. Trail counters suggest there was a 38% increase in hiking in June 2021 compared to the same month two years prior.

July and August are historically the busiest months of the year in Teton Park. But June 2021 attracted more people than would be typically be expected even in the midsummer. Only six months in park history were busier: August 1980, July 1982, July 2016, July 2018, July 2019 and July 2020.

Based on trends and other data sources, July and August 2021 are likely to be the most people-packed months in Grand Teton National Park and Teton County history.

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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