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Old Photos Prove Traffic in Yosemite National Park Is Nothing New

Photos recently shared by Yosemite National Park’s social media team show that traffic in the park has been a problem for nearly 100 years. A recent explosion of outdoor-focused tourism has brought more people to the park than ever before. However, the traffic and parking headache in the park is apparently nothing new.

The post on Instagram begins with a quote from 1927 that reads, “The Summer of 1927 has clearly demonstrated that parking is one of the most urgent, menacing problems of the entire Yosemite Valley.”

The quote from Don Tresidder, a president of the Yosemite Park and Curry Co., came from the opening of Highway 140, which remains a main corridor. The road was built to make access to the park easier as it avoided treacherous mountain roads. Officials say in the first year of the road, the number of cars doubled to 137,000. 

yosemite traffic
South Entrance, 1951. (Source: NPS)

At the time, parking was also an issue. Drivers would park almost anywhere in the park’s famous meadows. However, Yosemite officials say the park could still handle the traffic. That is until the size of vehicles grew, and crowds rose steadily. 

By 1970, officials made changes to close the valley and meadows to cars to protect the park better. Much like today, when a national park announces new plans, it’s often met with controversy. Even a famous conservationist spoke about the changes and how we need to figure out a way to both protect the park and access for the general public.

“What I believe now is that we must cooperate with reality,” said Ansel Adams in 1970. “The citizens of our country deserve the great experience of Yosemite, limited only by the requirements – physical, administrative, ecological – to keep this experience intact.”

If you skip ahead 50 years later, traffic and parking are still issues. Now, we have viral videos showing how bad it can be to get into the park.

yosemite historic traffic
Memorial Day Weekend, 1975. (Source: NPS)

For 2024, the park has returned to a reservation system. Those passes went on sale just last week for the summer months. But as the park continues to work to navigate a mix of park access and protecting the landscape, they do want to hear from the public. You can go here to share your feedback about visiting Yosemite.

What do you think should be done about traffic in one of America’s most popular parks?

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