It put that system in place to facilitate social distancing when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The park welcomed approximately 4.67m visitors in 2019, but when the pandemic struck, it was closed from March 21 through May 26. This resulted in a 31% reduction in visitor numbers for 2020 compared with the year before. It implemented a timed-entry system when it reopened and placed a cap of 60% on vehicle entries to avoid the problem of congestion.
In previous years, officials have dealt with congestion issues by implementing vehicle restrictions at various sections of the park, including Bear Lake Road, Alpine Visitor Center and the Wild Basin Area. They have now announced that while visitors will no longer have to register in advance online to obtain a permit for an allocated time slot, they will implement restrictions if congestion occurs and well as other pilot visitor management techniques.
With over 300 miles of trails, snow-encrusted granite peaks and a remarkable array of wild creatures,the 265,000-acre park is a very popular destination for visitors. Wildlife is one of the major draws, as it is home to 67 mammal species, including elks, bighorn sheep, coyotes, mountain lions and mule deer. Over 270 species of birds have been reported in the area over the past 100 years, some of which are unique to mountainous habitats.
Up-to-date information on the latest COVID-19 restrictions can be found on the National Park Service website here.
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