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With the park's Zero Landfill Initiative, the park hopes to dramatically reduce the amount of waste its visitors and staff produce each year.
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With the park's Zero Landfill Initiative, the park hopes to dramatically reduce the amount of waste its visitors and staff produce each year.
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Data Tracker

Yosemite National Park: Just how crowded is it?

By Phillip Reese

preese@sacbee.com

October 27, 2017 10:52 AM

Here’s how crowded Yosemite National Park has become: The number of visitors last year topped the number of residents in 29 different states.

As the National Park Service considers doubling summertime entrance fees at Yosemite and other popular parks, the crush of visitors – and traffic – keeps increasing.

About 5 million people visited Yosemite in 2016, up by more than a million from just three years earlier, the latest federal data show. For perspective, that number of visitors is roughly equivalent to the population of Colorado.

The vast majority - more than 90 percent - of those visitors arrived by car.

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Growth in Yosemite vehicle traffic has greatly outpaced growth in bus traffic during the last 10 years, adding to the frequency of a quintessential California experience – sitting in a traffic jam amidst one of the world's most beautiful valleys.

Environmental considerations keep Yosemite from significantly expanding the number of campsites and permanent lodging in the park.

As a result, the park had fewer overnight stays in 2016 than it did in 1991, when it had 1.6 million fewer visitors. Put another way, the growth in Yosemite visitation has come from people entering and leaving the park on the same day, federal data show. (The exception to this trend is overnight camping in the Yosemite wilderness backcountry, which is booming.)

Yosemite visitation is somewhat dependent on the weather – big snow years tend to have less traffic than years without snow. Even so, 2017 is on pace to have the second-highest number of Yosemite visitors on record, trailing only 2016, federal data show.

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Phillip Reese is The Bee's data specialist and teaches at Sacramento State. Reach him at 916-321-1137 or 916-278-5420.