We’re in an age where people spend more time looking down at their smartphones than they do looking up at nature. So, do national parks still matter? The numbers don’t lie. According to National Park Service (NPS) statistics, a record 4.8 million people visited Grand Teton National Park last year, while Yellowstone also exceeded expectations with 4.2 million. These two popular parks weren’t alone in raising the bar.
Attendance levels are so high that at some parks in the Southwest, officials were letting travelers whisk by park entrances without paying the entrance fees, just to avoid mile-long car backups. (Note: The delays have since been fixed, so don’t expect to whisk by scot-free in 2017!) Rather than braving long lines and crowded trails, many park visitors are turning to guided tours from operations like Scenic Safaris, which offers year-round treks through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Why are so many people eager to visit America’s National Parks? Some sites credit the NPS’s 100th Birthday celebration for the meteoric rise in attendance last year. Others cite the parks’ free days, which land on a handful of observed holidays. Here are a few other reasons why travelers are keen to visit scenic parks such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
● The Desire to Unplug: According to a recent CNN article, Americans now spend a whopping 10 hours a day, on average, looking at a digital screen. That includes time spent on work and home PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. As these numbers increase, there’s a strong movement to “unplug” and relax while enjoying the beauty of nature.
● Things are Getting Messy: Vandalism and trash at National Parks is on the rise. One tagger defaced a historic cabin at Grand Teton in recent years, while others have damaged petroglyphs or removed rocks. Some travelers worry that in just a few short years, our National Parks won’t look the same. Luckily, conservationists are working to erase stray markings and prevent further damage to our National Parks.
● It’s Time to Get Away (From Everyone): Those record crowds are another reason tourists want to see Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon now. Gone are the days of being a lone traveler straining to finish the grueling 16-mile out-and-bike hike of Static Peak Divide at Grand Teton. To circumvent crowds, some travelers are opting for snowmobile and van tours during winter months when tourism is slower.
When President Ulysses S. Grant signed the first National Park into law in 1872, he knew that the preservation of the amazing mountains, rock formations and wildlife of certain American regions would be important. Today, there are 59 National Parks in total. Considering that a record-breaking 331 million people visited one or more of these sites last year, there’s clearly no shortage of love for the beauty and majesty of America’s National Parks. For information on seasonal tours at Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Park, call 888-734-8898 or visit the Scenic Safaris website.