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.
On Feb. 2, 2021, the National Park Service announced an across-the-board mask requirement for all parks and federal buildings, commenting that the mandate is to “protect the health of those who live, work and visit our national parks and facilities,” in a statement.
“Wearing a mask around others, physical distancing, and washing your hands are the simplest and most effective public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said NPS Office of Public Health Director Captain Sara Newman.
Under the order released Feb.2, face masks are required at all times in all National Park Service buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on park service-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails. Additional public health measures may be in place at individual parks.
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
South Rim Roads, Entrance Fees and Closures:
- Entrances fees should be paid at automated fee machines at the entrance stations, or by purchasing a pass in advance from nearby third-party vendors, or online, through Recreation.gov.
- State Route 64, (Desert View Drive), is open a distance of 22 miles, from Grand Canyon Village to Navajo Point. There is a turnaround at Navajo Point.
- The East Entrance to the park at Desert View, the Desert View Watchtower area and campground are CLOSED. You must use the South Entrance near the town of Tusayan to enter and exit the park.
- Hermit Road is closed to cars. The 7.5 mile scenic road is accessed by foot, bicycle or the Hermit Road (Red Route) shuttle bus only. The shuttle runs from 5 am until 1 hour after sunset.
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.
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 reopened 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.
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
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Death Valley National Park is open, with some facility closures in place. The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working service-wide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. As of OCt. 8, 2020, this is the latest on the park:
Roads, Trailheads & Overlooks
OPEN: all regularly open park roads, trailheads and overlooks. Examples: Dantes View, Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, Artist’s Drive, Devils Hole, Ubehebe Crater, Racetrack, Mesquite Dunes, Salt Creek, Devil’s Golf Course, Harmony Borax, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Darwin Falls, Father Crowley Vista, Emigrant, Wildrose, Telescope Peak, and all unpaved roads.
CLOSED: Bonnie Claire road and Scotty’s Castle remain closed due to 2015 flood damage. The Saline Valley Warm Spring soaking tubs remain closed to entry.
OPEN: Furnace Creek, Emigrant, Mesquite Spring, Saline, Eureka, Homestake, Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogany campgrounds are open. Dispersed camping is available where permitted.
CLOSED: Group campsites are closed through the end of the year. Texas Springs, Sunset, and Stovepipe Wells campgrounds are closed for the summer.
All campfires and most other uses of open flame are PROHIBITED due to high fire danger. This restriction includes all campgrounds. More information can be found in the order notification.
PARTIALLY OPEN: The Furnace Creek is partially open, with outdoor pass sales and information provided during certain weekend hours (usually Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Bookstore items are available for purchase in the multi-purpose room adjacent to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center daily.
Note: entrance fees are required and can be paid by debit/credit card at automated pay kiosks or at Recreation.gov. You may also purchase your entrance fees at the Furnace Creek Campground Kiosk on any Friday through Sunday in September, 9 am to 4:30 pm.
Resorts: Fuel and Amenities
- The Oasis at Death Valley
- Gas available; store, lodging, and food options available.
- Stovepipe Wells Resort
- Gas available; store and campground open.
- Panamint Springs Resort
- Gas available; store, campground, and lodging open. Restaurant open with limited hours and outdoor seating.
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.
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