Transportation & Vehicle Mobility Studies

Traffic jam in the Lower Geyser Basin
Traffic backed up for miles between the West Entrance and Old Faithful, one of the most commonly traveled routes in the park.

NPS / Neal Herbert


Phase 1: 2016

To better understand the vehicular capacity of the park, we commissioned a study to analyze traffic and parking conditions in the summer of 2016. In particular, we wanted to:

  1. Document how people move through the park.
  2. Evaluate conditions at key intersections, roads, parking areas, and entrances.
  3. Analyze congestion problems at several key locations.
  4. Understand the vehicular capacity of the park.
  5. Provide recommendations for next steps.

Data was collected over a three-day period from August 14 to 16, 2016 using a variety of traffic counters, video recorders, and direct observation by members of the study team. This data was coupled with year-round gate and traffic counter data collected by the NPS to inform the results of this study.

Key Findings

A figure from the Transportation Study showing the most congested corridors in the park.
Orange shading highlights travel corridors that are nearing or over capacity: West Entrance to Madison Junction, Madison Junction to Old Faithful, Old Faithful to West Thumb, Madison Junction to Norris Junction, and Norris Junction to Canyon Village.

Prepared by Otak, in association with Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants

The study examined the routes traveled by visitors between each of the park’s five entrances. They most commonly traveled routes included: Trips entering and exiting through the West Entrance that included a stop at Old Faithful. Trips between the West and South entrances that included a stop at Old Faithful.

In heavily-used corridors like the West Entrance, mid-summer traffic volume is roughly 30% higher than roads and parking lots can comfortably and safely handle. During July, vehicles travel in tight groups following closely behind one another nearly 60% to 80% of the time. Traffic volumes repeatedly approached levels where road performance begins to decrease rapidly with additional vehicle volume.

During much of the summer, demand for parking exceeds capacity from late morning through late afternoon at the park’s most heavily visited attractions, especially the geyser basins and overlooks at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Vehicular demand for roads and parking in Yellowstone is expected to exceed capacity between 2021 and 2023.


Download Full Report (5mb PDF file)
Prepared by Otak, in association with Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants


Phase 2: 2018

(coming soon - Spring 2019)

Last updated: March 1, 2019

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PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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