Looking for a quiet, natural setting in which to view the country’s first total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years? You’re not alone: According to reports, the U.S. National Park Service is expecting hordes of skyward-gazing visitors to descend upon its grounds.
"With all the hype, with all the attention that's being directed towards the Eclipse, we are really anticipating near or at record crowds for the parks across the country,” said Brian Carlstrom, Deputy Director of Natural Resources for National Park Service.
According to Carlstrom, 21 of the country’s National Parks lie within the path of totality, the westernmost being the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument near Kimberly, Ore., and the easternmost being Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston, S.C.
The best views, however, just might be reserved for those who trek out west.
"Yellowstone and the Tetons are directly in the path of this Eclipse,” explains NASA scientist and astronomer Maria Thaller. “And there are many, many people that are going out there to see the Eclipse in this spectacular national setting."
But if you can’t make it out to Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons, don’t fret: The rest of the country will still experience a partial solar eclipse. Besides, Carlstrom said visitors would be hard-pressed to secure a campsite or hotel room near any of the most popular parks within the path of totality, anyway.
"Many of the hotels and campgrounds around them are booked to capacity and have been for months,” said Carlstrom, who instead suggested visiting a lesser-known park in the path of the eclipse, such as Fort Laramie in eastern Wyoming.
And if you do make the journey, expect to fight some traffic. The Park Service isn’t exactly sure how many people are planning to pop by, but they’re beefing up security and staff accordingly.
"We're expecting huge crowds,” said Carlstrom. “No idea of exactly how many, but we know they're going to be big."