The chaos in Malham led to a claim last night that lives would be at risk unless new traffic management plans were put in place.
The poor weather forecast for Bank Holiday Monday led to an influx of visitors on Sunday, with pictures emerging on social media of long tailbacks of vehicles, squeezed between the drystone walls.
Writer Jacquie Budd said on Twitter that the “appalling parking” made her “despair”, adding: “Rural locations simply cannot cope with such a volume of visitors.”
Malham has long been a honeypot for tourists and its popularity increased still further in January when ITV named the walk from there to Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss waterfall the third most scenic in Britain.
But locals said the scenes on Sunday, when early visitors parked on the brow of the hill leading to the village and others followed, had been unprecedented.
Farmer and Malham parish councillor Neil Heseltine, a member of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “It’s nothing new – it has been an issue since the 1950s.
“But it was compounded on Sunday by eight to 10 people parking on the brow and causing tailbacks in and out of the village, and also because it was too wet to fill up the overspill car park we have in a field .
“It meant the village bus and other vehicles couldn’t get through and in those circumstances, it causes a danger to life.”
He added: “Part of the problem is that even where there are yellow lines on the road, there is no enforcement. It’s not just a matter of calling the police.”
Author Colin Speakman, vice-president of the Yorkshire Dales Society, said Sunday’s congestion was “perhaps the worst traffic chaos Malham has ever known”.
He said the gridlock extended beyond the village itself and towards the neighbouring settlement of Kirkby Malham, about a mile away, and would have prevented emergency vehicles gaining access.
He said: “The problem is there’s no traffic management plan in Malham and it desperately needs one.
“The village bus was stuck for about 50 minutes. It’s about the same size as a fire engine and not much wider than an ambulance, so there is a really serious question here about public safety.”
Mr Speakman said Malham was “now probably the most congested place in any National Park in Britain” and that traffic management there had become a “national issue”.
Drivers had even taken to parking in passing places on the single-track road into the village, making two-way movement impossible, he said.
Some of Sunday’s day-trippers returned to their cars to find notices on their windscreens which read: “We appreciate your visit but not your parking.”
Mr Speakman said: “This is not just anywhere – this is a national treasure and it should be properly managed and given the resources it needs.
“The National Park Authority and the county council are going to have to work together to prioritise traffic management, and to use the special powers they have to control and manage the flow”
Visits to the Malham National Park Centre have increased from 88,000 five years ago to more than 116,000 last year.
The National Park Authority operates a pay and display car park at the centre with 77 marked spaces and 20 more on grass.