Embracing the Automobile

The arrival of the automobile at the turn of the century presented park managers with new challenges and opportunities. A few pioneering motorists made their way into Yosemite National Park as early as 1900, but automobiles were soon banned as threats to the peace and safety of visitors traveling by stagecoach. Aggressive lobbying by automobile interests, combined with the general desire to make parks more accessible to middle-class Americans, led all national parks to open

Early motor tourist stopping to enjoy the view on the Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park.

their gates to car traffic by 1915. Stagecoach companies rapidly switched from horse-drawn vehicles to gaily colored touring cars. In the 1920s, motor touring and car camping blossomed into nationwide fads, actively encouraged by the National Park Service in order to build a broader constituency of park supporters. Parks overflowed with motorists who regaled each other with tales of their automotive adventures traveling the rough and rugged park roads.

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