Migration is a major factor shaping protected area landscapes. Combining historical narratives with interview, census, and satellite data, we investigate the ways in which migration has transformed the landscape surrounding Kibale National Park in western Uganda. We show that the region has gone from sparsely populated bushland to densely settled subsistence agricultural landscape occupied by tens of thousands of small-scale farming households since the last half of the twentieth century. Population density closer to the park has grown to 1.5 times higher than places more distant from the park. Migration to areas near the park has not necessarily been driven by economic benefits from the park itself, but rather by important push and pull factors at different scales. Results indicate that understanding the social and cultural underpinnings of human migration to, and environmental change along, the borders of protected areas is fundamental to developing appropriate people–park policy as a result of neighboring land use intensification brought about by changing demographics.