I visited S Utah 35 years ago. I had NO IDEA how much the national parks have changed. I fled the Canyonlands, Arches and Bryce Canyon areas after only 4 days last week because I could not stand the crowds.
And I mean crowds. Besides American visitors, I encountered busloads of Japanese, German, French, Italian, Chinese and Eastern European tourists disembarking from giant buses to take pictures and selfies in this most beautiful art project of Mother Nature. Yes, some did take hikes into the park, but most chattered and looked from overlooks and then they were on their way.
What happened? The National Park Service launched a campaign to get increased support for the parks as public funding has dwindled. (Thanks Congress!) The campaign include Europe and Asia and the countries with growing economies and disposable income.
I asked several staff about this. Most bemoan the huge increase in traffic. But all agreed that this is good for their local economies, that the Park Services does a good job of limiting numbers when necessary, and that the wilderness really is still protected because most tourists don’t go within! Many parks are moving to shuttle services to limit the number of cars and parking spaces, but that’s not true of all. (Question: of course climate change is affecting the parks regardless of the tourist trade. More on that as I learn more.)
Basically, it just makes visiting National Parks a headache unless you plan carefully ahead. Most parks open in early summer and close in late fall, and the tourist trade is concentrated in June/July/August/September. Europeans flock in August. Apparently the trick is to find out when the flow is smaller and come then, even if it’s really COLD when you come!
Another strategy: backpack into the wilderness. That’s not for me. But it is a wonderful experience for those who have the fitness, energy and confidence!