5 Things to Know About Grand Canyon Travel Amid COVID-19

Here's everything you need to know about the national parks reopening with specifics on Grand Canyon and Death Valley.
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National park ranger wearing a face mask and gloves to protect against COVID-19

In light of the spread of COVID-19, trying to find out what is open and closed in our national parks is a moving target these days. The National Park Service is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local public health authorities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make its decisions on what to keep open or to close on a daily basis.

How to Be an Informed and Mindful Traveler

While the national parks reopening have made us cautiously optimistic about summer travel, we’ve identified 5 essential factors you should consider before you hit the road. And one last thing. Throw your propensity to assume out the window. As we’ve seen during this spring, there are no guarantees that businesses will stay open, virus cases will go down or stay-at-home orders will be a thing of the past.

1. Every state has its own rules that vary dramatically.

Each state has different quarantine orders that vary dramatically from state to state. Within states, orders can even vary from county to county or town to town. For instance, if you pass through the Navajo Nation, you must wear a face mask. 

2. Not everything in the park will be open.

Just because a national park reopens does not mean everything within the park is open. For instance, Grand Canyon's South Rim East Entrance is still closed. Zion is not running its shuttle service. There are no overnight accommodations open in Grand Canyon. Major hotels in Grand Teton and Glacier national parks most likely will not open. Yellowstone may not open its full-service restaurants. Be sure to check each park website to ensure that the services you need are available. Lastly, avoiding crowds and practicing Leave No Trace principles in the park are more essential now than ever with reduced park staff. We’ve teamed up with organizations and brands across the outdoor industry to help you make smart decisions on recreating to keep yourself and others healthy and to keep access to our beloved public places open. You can read more about how to #RecreateResponsibly

3. Every town and local business is operating differently in this new normal.

Do advance research on what hotels and restaurants are open and what they are doing to keep customers and employees safe. Some restaurants may only offer take out. Others might have a long waiting list because they have fewer tables to keep people physically distanced. Some rafting and tour companies may not offer trips this summer while others may be doing business as usual, with added safety measures. If you have a choice between local businesses and a national chain, consider supporting the local business.

4. Be mindful that you’re a visitor in someone’s hometown.

While you may feel footloose and fancy free after being cooped up for two months, don’t throw caution to the wind. Yes, wearing masks is awkward. No, you cannot throw yours out. People live in the towns you’re traveling through and they want to feel safe as they open up their economies. Many have tiny medical centers and are miles from the nearest full-service hospital. If a store posts a sign asking all customers to wear face masks, put on your face mask. Be the traveler you’d want to see visiting your town.

5. If you’re sick, stay home.

We’ve all done too much work staying at home and following health and safety precautions to have a COVID-19 resurgence take foot in our country. No one wants to get sick, so if you’re not feeling well or have signs of COVID-19, stay at home or if you’re on the road, head home immediately. Travel when you’re healthy. 

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park will be Closed Tuesday, May 26, Wednesday May 27, and Thursday. May 28, 2020.

All visitor facilities, trails, and roads including Highway 64 will be closed during these 3 days.

During the upcoming weekend, (May 29 through June 1) there may again be limited South Rim access and operating hours. Details will be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. Details will be announced at www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/grand-canyon-national-park-public-health-update.htm as soon as they have been finalized.

Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim South Entrance had reopened May 15-18, 2020, for incoming traffic from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. with limited day use access to:

  • The viewpoints at Pipe Creek Vista, Twin Overlooks, Duck on a Rock, Thor's Hammer, No Name Point and Navajo Point along East Desert View Drive. Vehicles will be directed to turn around at Navajo Point.
  • The picnic areas east of Yaki Road, Thor's Hammer and Buggeln Picnic area.
  • The restroom facilities located by the South Entrance Grand Canyon National Park sign, picnic area east of Yaki Road, and Buggeln picnic area.

With public health in mind, the following facilities and areas remain closed to visitors at this time:

  • South Rim's east entrance and Desert View area.
  • The Rim Trail, Greenway Trail system, inner canyon and all hiking trails.
  • Grand Canyon Village.
  • Center Road west from the South Entrance Road intersection; South Entrance Road north of Desert View Drive intersection; Yaki Point Road, Rowe Well Road and the USFS 310 Road.
  • The Colorado River, North Rim and Tuweep area.

Commercial services within the park remain closed. Visitors exploring the South Rim should plan to be self-sufficient, bringing enough food and water during their trip as well as hand sanitizer. Park entrance fees are currently waived. The park also recommends arriving no later than 9-9:30 a.m. in case of traffic backups entering the park. Once visitors enter the park, they can stay throughout the day. 

There are no overnight accommodations available.
While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. Currently, additional access is planned for visitors over Memorial Day weekend, which includes extending entrance station hours and access to more roads, hiking trails and viewpoints. 

As a reminder, visitors driving on U.S. Route 89 between Flagstaff or northern Arizona and Cameron will be traveling through the Navajo Nation, which requires face masks to be worn at public facilities and businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Also, the neighboring Havasupai reservation remains closed for tourism, and details for operational updates can be found on their website at www.theofficialhavasupaitribe.com.

On March 18, 2020, the South Rim Backcountry Information Center (BIC) transitioned to issuing backcountry permits via phone and email only. There is no in-person service. The building will be open for visitors to enter, use the bathrooms and to submit "same day" backcountry permit requests. Instructions for submitting "same day" requests are provided inside the BIC.

Not related to COVID-19, water is off at Bright Angel Campground. A break in the transcanyon pipeline is being repaired. There is no way to wash hands. Camping is not recommended.

Grand Canyon National Park is extending the suspension of administrative, research, private and commercial river rafting trips through June 13, 2020, in order to comply with the local health guidance to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Resumption of river trips will be evaluated periodically to provide up to 30 days advance notice to allow companies and private boaters time to adjust travel arrangements and prepare for trips. This is an update from the previous suspension date of May 21, 2020.

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of the park, visit the Grand Canyon news site at www.nps.gov/grca/learn/news/

For camping reservations, alerts and closures at Mather Campground or the North Rim Campground, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2733

Follow the park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GrandCanyonNationalPark/

Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon West reopens June 1, 2020, after closing March 18.  Grand Canyon West, a non-national park site on the west side of the Grand Canyon, is closed. Owned and run by the Hualapai tribe, it’s known for its Skywalk. 

For refunds and cancellations, please call 1-888-868-WEST or 928-769-2636 or email Reservations@GrandCanyonResort.com. 

To get up-to-date news on Grand Canyon West, go to grandcanyonwest.com/covid-19/.

Follow Grand Canyon West on Facebook at www.facebook.com/grandcanyonwest

Death Valley National Park

All areas of the park are closed, including: trails, roads, viewpoints, visitor centers, restrooms, and campgrounds.

The park will remain closed until after California enters Stage 3. We are working with national, state, and local health officials to plan what the steps of a phased reopening will look like, and will share specific dates as soon as these plans are finalized. Updates will be posted on this website and on social media channels.

All park roads are closed. Highway 190 and Daylight Pass Road remain open to through traffic only for those on essential travel. All NPS campgrounds are closed, including front-country and back-country campgrounds. Panamint Springs Resort's campground is open. www.panamintsprings.com

Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells airports are closed. The Oasis at Death Valley (www.oasisatdeathvalley.com) is completely closed, except for the pay-at-the-pump gas station. Stovepipe Wells Resort  (deathvalleyhotels.com) is closed, except for pay-at-the-pump gas station and the general store (open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm). Panamint Springs Resort has a pay-at-the-pump gas station and some limited amenities.

Visitors can continue to enjoy Death Valley National Park online through videos, including the series “Death Valley Explorer.” These can be found at the park website at www.nps.gov/deva/learn/photosmultimedia/.

Get Death Valley’s most up-to-date alerts at www.nps.gov/deva/learn/news/.

Follow the park on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/DeathValleyNPS

Only Furnace Creek Campground takes advanced campground reservations. Find out updates at www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232496.

Other National Park Sites

The National Park Service has been updating its COVID-19 page daily with information about individual parks. You can visit it here: www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/public-health-update.htm

Updates about nationwide NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Related Stories

National Park Service to Temporarily Suspend Park Entrance Fees: www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/national-park-service-to-temporarily-suspend-park-entrance-fees.htm

National Park Service Is Modifying Operations to Implement Latest Health Guidance www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/statmentonparkopscovid19.htm