Glacier Park Breaks Visitation Record Again

The National Park Service is on pace to break its overall visitation record this year

By Beacon Staff

The popularity of Glacier National Park continues to soar to record levels.

The Crown Jewel of the Continent has attracted more visitors than ever this year with an estimated 2.35 million people through November, according to National Park Service statistics.

The visitor tally surpasses last year’s record total of 2.33 million.

As of last month, year-to-date visitation was up 1.7 percent over 2014. November’s visitation increased 24 percent over the previous year.

June boasted unseasonably warm weather and set a new record for the month with over 414,000 people that month. On June 11, the park celebrated its 100 millionth visitor.

This year marks the eighth time in 12 years that over 2 million people have visited Glacier Park. Only five other years prior to 2004 saw that many people in the park, according to NPS data.

The National Park Service is on pace to break its overall visitation record this year, the agency said. More people have visited NPS sites in the first 10 months of the year than ever before. The NPS’s Public Use Statistics Office estimated 272.5 million recreation visits to the parks through October. That compares to 262.7 million visits in the same period of 2014, an increase of 3.7 percent which will mean 300 million visitors in 2015.

“With every visit to national parks, people write themselves a prescription for the health benefits that come when enjoying these natural and historical wonders,” stated NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Americans have loved the national parks for a century and more. Our aim now is to help the next generation become not only visitors but park supporters and advocates, too.”

Next year is the NPS centennial. The centennial is expected to extend the visitation surge, bringing even more people to America’s parks.

The increased visitation is not confined to one region or type of park. Parks across the U.S., from iconic “crown jewel” sites to lesser-known gems already exceed prior records for visitation.

By the end of October, the world’s first national park, Yellowstone in Wyoming and Montana, had smashed its previous annual high (2010) with more than 4 million visits, which represents a 17 percent increase over last year’s visitation to date.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, which is celebrating its own park centennial this year, also may pass 4 million visits in 2015. It already has broken the mark it set last year, with more than 3.9 million visits through October 2015. Each of Rocky Mountain’s 10 busiest days this year saw more than 10,000 vehicles enter the park.

At the same time, tiny Golden Spike National Historic Site in northern Utah, which marks where the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, had 32 percent more visits through October than in the same period last year. And visitation increased almost every month this year. In southern Utah, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks also have set new visitation highs this year.

Despite difficult winter conditions earlier this year, several East Coast locations have posted significantly higher visitor counts including Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site in New York, Federal Hall National Memorial in New York and Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, perennially one of the most visited NPS sites, is also on track to break its visitation record.

The National Park Service’s 100th birthday is Aug. 25, 2016, but parks across the country are planning centennial events throughout the year.