GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — Visitors heading to the Grand Canyon lately know they are going to get two things when they arrive: breathtaking views and long waits, whether it is to get into the national park itself or to find a parking spot inside. A few frustrated tourists have even turned around and left.

The crowds haven’t just been coming to the Grand Canyon, where a sign ahead of the entrance gates warns of limited parking.

The throngs of tourists have been showing up in big numbers at other national parks, including Yellowstone in Wyoming, Yosemite in California and Zion in Utah, driven by good weather, cheap gas and marketing campaigns ahead of next year’s National Park Service centennial.

With the busy Labor Day weekend still ahead, the Park Service already has recorded 5 million more visitors from this time last year. The result has been the very traffic congestion that many families and tourists alike hope to escape when they embark on trips to the parks.

Many tourists are taking the crowds in stride.

“It comes with the deal,” said David Stonecypher of Duarte, California, who was visiting with his wife, Jetta, mid-week to avoid overcrowding.

Officials at the parks say they are making do with the resources they have, including encouraging visitors to use shuttles to cut down on the number of vehicles within parks and paying overtime to keep as many entrance gates open as possible.

“It has definitely been a struggle. And there hasn’t been an increase in base funding to help compensate for the crowds,” said Aly Baltrus, spokeswoman at Zion, where officials say search and rescue calls have doubled this year as more people veer off established paths.

Police had to shut down the road into Arches National Park in Utah over the Memorial Day holiday because so many people wanted to get in.

The increase in visitors is due partly to the Park Service’s “Find Your Park” campaign, which launched earlier this year to reintroduce people to the parks. Several anniversaries are drawing bigger crowds to war memorials in Washington, D.C., and Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona is getting more visitors despite record-low lake levels.

Another campaign promises to bring more tourists: Fourth-graders and their families are being encouraged to go to national parks with a free, yearlong pass for them, starting this week.

Visitation at the Grand Canyon is approaching a 30 percent rise over last year through August. Other parks are seeing double-digit percentage increases. Park Service stats show Joshua Tree National Park with a nearly 30 percent increase so far in 2015 over the same time last year, going from about 920,500 visitors to more than 1.2 million.

More than 2.2 million people visited Zion between January-July this year, a nearly 16 percent increase over about 1.9 million during the same period last year. Yellowstone reported going from 2.5 million to 2.9 million, a 14 percent increase; Yosemite from 2.1 million to nearly 2.4 million, an 11 percent increase.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.