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National Parks are becoming crowded with trails overrun even before 9am as visitors rush to outdoors

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With lockdowns lifted, Americans are heading for the great outdoors but in doing so some of the country’s National Park are becoming overrun with visitors.  

As a result, the parks and nearby towns are becoming overcrowded with visitors.

The main reason for such high visit numbers well before the peak summer season is due to a higher percentage of first-timers checking out the nation’s natural wonders, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is just one of many Parks that are experiencing record visitor numbers. Pictured, Old Faithful, a cone geyser. Memorial Day weekend is pictured

Visitor numbers are seen standing around Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Memorial Day weekend is pictured

Visitor numbers are seen standing around Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Memorial Day weekend is pictured

At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, 438,000 people visited in May compared with 434,000 in 2019 - an 11 percent rise and the busiest May ever

At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, 438,000 people visited in May compared with 434,000 in 2019 – an 11 percent rise and the busiest May ever

Arches National Park in Utah has also been experiencing long traffic jams with staff

Arches National Park in Utah has also been experiencing long traffic jams with staff

On Monday, the park was forced to close just after 9am were forced to turn visitors away

On Monday, the park was forced to close just after 9am were forced to turn visitors away

People show up early at Canyonlands National Park in Utah in order to catch the sunrise

People show up early at Canyonlands National Park in Utah in order to catch the sunrise

By way of example, about 194,000 people visited Arches in April in eastern Utah. 

The numbers were 15 percent higher than the number of visitors in 2019. The park was closed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 Canyonlands, in southeastern Utah saw a 30 percent increase in visitor numbers in in April, compared with 2019.

At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, 438,000 people visited in May compared with 434,000 in 2019 – an 11 percent rise and the busiest May on record. 

The surge in visitors means long wait times, sometimes of several hours in order to visit the parks. The higher footfall can also sometimes make them less enjoyable to visit.     

Yellowstone is similarly seeing a record number of visitors since all entrances were open for the 2021 tourist season

Yellowstone is similarly seeing a record number of visitors since all entrances were open for the 2021 tourist season

Visitors watch black bears in Yellowstone National Park last week

Visitors watch black bears in Yellowstone National Park last week

At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, 438,000 people visited in May compared with 434,000 in 2019 - an 11 percent rise and the busiest May ever

At Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, 438,000 people visited in May compared with 434,000 in 2019 – an 11 percent rise and the busiest May ever

‘Anywhere you go, there’s going to be a line,’ Libby Preslock told the Wall Street Journal.

Preslock recently visited Arched and showed up at 9am only to find the park already at capacity. She was advised to return between three and five hours later. 

At Canyonlands there was also a wait but only for one hour.    

‘Out of the five national parks, this is probably one of the most unique, but I definitely wouldn’t say it’s my favorite because there’s too many people,’ said Susan Mathews to the New York Post who recently visited Arches.   

It’s not clear what the solution to overcrowding might be. Businesses in the area are against any kind of reservation system that are in place at California’s Yosemite National Park and Maine’s Acadia National Park. 

Visitors watch bison and their newborns as they cross the road in Yellowstone National Park, pictured last week

Visitors watch bison and their newborns as they cross the road in Yellowstone National Park, pictured last week

The coronavirus pandemic saw many National Parks shut in 2020. With summer approaching people more people than ever are visiting outdoors

The coronavirus pandemic saw many National Parks shut in 2020. With summer approaching people more people than ever are visiting outdoors

In Maine, Acadia National Park began requiring a $6 reservation for vehicles heading up on Cadillac Summit Road, an extremely popular perch to watch the sunrise

In Maine, Acadia National Park began requiring a $6 reservation for vehicles heading up on Cadillac Summit Road, an extremely popular perch to watch the sunrise

Early-rising visitors to Acadia National Park await the sunrise on the summit of Cadillac Mountain, near Bar Harbor, Maine. Pictured, last month. The  Maine Governo Janet Mills eliminated most outdoor distancing requirements imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic as the tourism season begins to kick into gear

Early-rising visitors to Acadia National Park await the sunrise on the summit of Cadillac Mountain, near Bar Harbor, Maine. Pictured, last month. The  Maine Governo Janet Mills eliminated most outdoor distancing requirements imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic as the tourism season begins to kick into gear

Kent Green, the owner of Moab Cowboy Country Offroad Adventures based in Moab, Utah, is against the introduction of reservations fearing such a policy might put off last-minute visitors from coming to the area. 

‘I think it will kill our economy,’ he said. 

At some privately owned attractions, reservation systems have been introduced to handle the fast-growing number of visitors including at the privately owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve. 

Similar management systems are in place this summer season for outdoor attractions from Maui to Maine, typically in response to the pandemic or to crowds that were surging even before lockdowns inspired more wilderness visits.

Trails elsewhere in New York’s 6 million-acre Adirondack Park remain reservation-free but hikers throughout the reserve are now checked in by staff in the parking lot and at the trailhead.

A crowd of tourists gather at Mather Point Lookout, located on the South Rim, to watch the sunrise and take selfies in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona (file photo from 2019)

A crowd of tourists gather at Mather Point Lookout, located on the South Rim, to watch the sunrise and take selfies in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona (file photo from 2019)

Tanya Wyler takes a photograph as Matthias Zather and Ines Zather, all of Switzerland, gather at the Grand Canyon Friday last May after theGrand Canyon National Park increased recreational access at the South Rim to selected viewpoints

Tanya Wyler takes a photograph as Matthias Zather and Ines Zather, all of Switzerland, gather at the Grand Canyon Friday last May after theGrand Canyon National Park increased recreational access at the South Rim to selected viewpoints

Jack Covington and Judy Smith view the Grand Canyon. Tourists are once again roaming the  Grand Canyon National Park having reopened just over one year ago

Jack Covington and Judy Smith view the Grand Canyon. Tourists are once again roaming the  Grand Canyon National Park having reopened just over one year ago

The reservation system offers a trade-off to visitors, sacrificing spontaneity and ease of access for benefits like a guaranteed parking spot and more elbow room in the woods. 

Popular trailhead parking lots are typically filled before dawn on summer weekends. Summits like Cascade Mountain are packed. 

The three-year pilot reservation system, announced by the reserve and the state in March, is designed both to protect natural resources and for public safety. State officials hope the managed entry will reduce illegal roadside parking. 

Outdoor reservation systems are not new, especially for camping spots. But they are popping up more as parks brace for a busy summer now that the coronavirus pandemic is waning in the U.S. and restrictions are being lifted. 

Waianapanapa State Park in Hawaii began requiring entry and parking reservations for non-residents. Yosemite and Rocky Mountain national parks have entry reservation systems in place.

A parking reservation sign alerts visitors at the entrance to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve trailhead in St. Huberts, New York A free reservation system went online recently to control growing numbers of visitors packing the parking lot and tramping on the trails through the private land of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

A parking reservation sign alerts visitors at the entrance to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve trailhead in St. Huberts, New York A free reservation system went online recently to control growing numbers of visitors packing the parking lot and tramping on the trails through the private land of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

Adirondack Mountain Reserve Ranger Mike Ryan, right, checks in two hikers at the trailhead of the reserve, pictured in May

Adirondack Mountain Reserve Ranger Mike Ryan, right, checks in two hikers at the trailhead of the reserve, pictured in May

Kelsey Crosby, right, and Matt Hockemeyer descend the trail from Indian Head summit. The increasingly common requirements offer a trade-off to visitors, sacrificing spontaneity and ease of access for benefits like guaranteed parking spots and more elbow room in the woods

Kelsey Crosby, right, and Matt Hockemeyer descend the trail from Indian Head summit. The increasingly common requirements offer a trade-off to visitors, sacrificing spontaneity and ease of access for benefits like guaranteed parking spots and more elbow room in the woods

Hikers walk along the trail from Indian Head summit inside the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

Hikers walk along the trail from Indian Head summit inside the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

In Maine, Acadia National Park began requiring a $6 reservation last month for vehicles heading up on Cadillac Summit Road, an extremely popular perch to watch the sunrise. The move, part of a larger park transportation plan, was designed to cut down on traffic backups.

Glacier National Park in Montana recently launched a similar advance vehicle reservation on its 50 mile Going-to-the-Sun Road and quickly sold out the initial slots, prompting complaints on social media from frustrated tourists. 

More reservations are made available daily on a rolling basis.

Advocates say the inconvenience is outweighed by the need to protect wilderness from overuse. Though the day-use reservation system at Yosemite National Park was enacted because of the pandemic, it has helped solve congestion problems that have plagued the attraction, said Neal Desai, a senior program director with the National Parks Conservation Association.

‘We need people´s experience to match their expectations, and there´s a massive disconnect right now,’ said Desai, who advocates for Yosemite. ‘People think they´re getting nature and beautiful trails and instead they´re inhaling car exhaust for hours and finding trails and facilities overcrowded.’

A hiker walks through the parking lot at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve where people must now make car parking reservations

A hiker walks through the parking lot at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve where people must now make car parking reservations

Two hikers approach the gated entrance to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve trailhead

Two hikers approach the gated entrance to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve trailhead

Sidney Gleason, right, and Joe Gorsuch, both of Syracuse, take a selfie with Lower Ausable Lake in the background, while taking a break at Indian Head summit inside the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

Sidney Gleason, right, and Joe Gorsuch, both of Syracuse, take a selfie with Lower Ausable Lake in the background, while taking a break at Indian Head summit inside the Adirondack Mountain Reserve

The number of Americans who hiked last year increased by 8.1 million, the largest one-year gain on record, according to the Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association.

National park visits dropped precipitously last year amid pandemic-related park closures and restrictions. But the drop followed years of high use and crowds are expected back in force this year.

‘We expect that there will be significant increases in visitation at many parks as COVID mitigation measures are reduced, vaccination rates rise, and Americans increase their travel,’ National Parks Service deputy director for operations Shawn Benge told a Senate committee last month. 

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