By the Numbers: Yosemite National Park Visitor Use

Serbian visitor at Yosemite’s Washburn Point. Barbara Polk photo.

Yosemite National Park entertains millions every year with alpine wilderness, sequoia groves, and a glacier-carved valley of unmatched beauty. Let’s take a look at some interesting visitor use statistics for this big, gorgeous park.

Except where noted, the statistics cited are for calendar year 2009.

3,866,970

Recreational visits. To put that in perspective, Yosemite’s annual visitation is slightly greater than the entire population of Los Angeles, America’s second-most populous city.

70,000

Approximate number of visitors who took the park’s concessionaire-operated, open-air trailer tours. The standard tour is a two-hour, ranger-narrated loop that includes the valley floor and Glacier Point. The four hybrid diesel tractors that replaced the old propane-fueled tractors in 2009 get eight times the mileage with an 85% reduction in emissions.

23,415

Instances of law breaking or rules infractions resulting in rangers issuing warnings (20,529) or citations (2,886). Typical fines: $250 for disturbing wildlife and $150 for takings pets into wilderness.

18,777

Wilderness permits issued. Considering that 93% of Yosemite’s acreage is federally-designated wilderness, and that there are 800 miles of trails in the park (including lengthy segments of the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails), it’s not surprising that backpackers logged 142,623 wilderness stays during 2009.

15,000

Approximate peak overnight population of seven square-mile Yosemite Valley, including park employees, during the summer months.

615

Motor vehicle accidents reported. This compares with 405 in 2005, a year when there were half a million fewer visitors.

242

Search and rescue operations. Yosemite National Park, like Grand Canyon National Park, Gateway National Recreation Area, and several other NPS units, generates conspicuously high SAR statistics.

69

Percentage of summer visitors who are California residents, according to the most recent comprehensive survey (July 8-17, 2005). The same survey established that about 18% of summer visitors are internationals.

47

Average age of Yosemite visitors, based on the 2005 survey cited above. Since the average age of the non-response group was 42, “mid-40s” is about right.

4

Visiting U.S. Presidents who signed the “Grand Register of Yo-Semite Valley,” a registry maintained at a Yosemite bathhouse/saloon during the early days of Yosemite tourism. Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Garfield all signed the register when it was being actively maintained (1873-1884), while Theodore Roosevelt signed it much later (1903).

Postscript: My, what a difference a century can make. In 1912, the last year of the park’s stagecoach era, annual visitation was 11,000.

Comments

Bob, those are very interesting statistics. You might note that your photo is of Washburn Point, not Glacier Point. [Ed: The correction has been made in the photo caption.] It's easy to discern the difference. When you are at Glacier Point, it's possible to see the north face of Half Dome, while at Washburn Point, the north face of Half Dome is perpendicular to the line of sight.

I would have liked to have visited Yosemite in 1912. During more recent times, the 1912 annual visitation for Yosemite will be exceeded in Yosemite Valley on most single days during the summer months.

The statistic that caught my eye the most was the 23,415 warnings and citations. This amounts to 6 warnings or citations for every one thousand visitors, or one warning or citation for every 164 visitors. This seems very high. I wonder how this statistic compares with other NPS units in CA and elsewhere?

Given the 2886 citations, and assuming an average fine of, say $200, this amounts to more than one-half million dollars in revenue raised via law-enforcement activities. Of course, this assumes that each and every citation would merit a "typical" fine, which may not be the case.

The issue of pets (dogs) on trails was prevalent even when I worked in the park during the late 1960's and early 1970's.

Thanks for straightening me out on that photo caption, Owen. The error was mine, not the photographer's. That ratio of warnings to citations does seem high. I'm afraid that I'd have to do a bit of digging to see how YOSE compares with other NPS units in that regard. Can't do it now, though, as I'm getting ready to leave on a week-long Dumb and Dumber trip to the Carolinas coast with my buddy Colorado Jim.

Interesting statistics on the 69% of visitors who are California visitors.

The last time I was there (a while back), I met many people who were amazed that we had traveled from the East to hike in Yosemite.

"How did you find this place?" people kept asking.
My reply was that "it is a National Park."

Danny