National parks see surge in visitors as people are eager to explore great outdoors

If you have plans to visit a national park this summer, you're not alone.

There has been a notable increase in travel this year, especially at national parks.

Kristy Clifford of Greenville, South Carolina along with her husband and three children, started traveling with an Airstream trailer last August and came up with a goal to visit 40 national parks in one year's time.

With only eight parks left to go as of Monday, the mother has noticed a big change since they began their cross-country adventure last summer.

"We didn't have any trouble getting in. It just kind of felt like we were the only people showing up," said Clifford. "This year has felt dramatically different."

She says the crowds have multiplied.

Since last October, Arches National Park in Utah has reported a record number of visitors, up 70% in some months compared to previous years.

To adjust, the park this summer has been temporarily halting visitors with parking lots often filling up before 8 a.m.

In a tweet Monday, Arches National Park said: "The park is currently full, and we are temporarily delaying entries into the park. Vehicles attempting to enter the park will have to come back at another time. Consider returning a few hours later or visiting other nearby attractions."

"You think about national parks and state parks and these outdoor areas that just attract lots of crowds, and that's what we've been seeing is that people just want to get out," said Sergio Avila, spokesperson for AAA of Northern California.

It's not just Utah. Clifford says the crowds are in California as well.

"We went to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks in California in February. We were literally the only people standing in a sequoia grove in Kings Canyon on February 22," said Clifford. "And then fast-forward, we were in Yosemite about 2-3 weeks ago and we couldn't even get into the grove there were so many people at Mariposa Grove."

Visitors say the park service is trying to adjust. For example, some parks are limiting car access as people try to enjoy the outdoors and new freedoms from COVID.

"If you're looking for a really personal, individualized experience of a national park, this might not be the summer to go for you," advises Clifford.

Crowds aren't changing her family's plans.

As they wrap up their year-long adventure, they are though keeping track of which national parks they want to return to in the future with fewer crowds.