Three national parks will open their gates in coming days, and the National Park Service announced Thursday that it would start “increasing access and services in a phased approach across all units of the National Park System.”
In many cases, parks will reopen as they closed — by varying timetables, depending on the park and its region. The agency said decisions would follow federal CDC guidance as well as that provided by regional and local health authorities.
The CDC has dedicated a web page for visitors on how to stay safe in park settings.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah on May 6 plans to open trails around the red-rock spires of the Bryce Amphitheater, its most visited area. The main park road and viewpoints along the way will be open from the entrance to Rainbow Point. However, the visitor center, campgrounds, backcountry trails and restrooms remain closed (except for one at Sunset Point), a park announcement said.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which straddles Utah and Arizona, will reopen up in phases. On May 8, major boat ramps for popular Lake Powell will open for days use Fridays through Sundays. A week later, the ramps will open daily for overnight visitors. By May 22, most of Glen Canyon’s 1.25 million acres of lakeside shoreline and hiking trails will be accessible to the public.
Everglades National Park in Florida plans to reopen some boat launch ramps, campgrounds and restrooms May 4; Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee will allow visitors on many roads and trails starting May 9.
At Zion National Park, a tweet Friday said the park was still closed but “plans for gradually and safely resuming park operations are under way.”
Zion National Park is currently closed. Plans for gradually and safely resuming park operations are underway. The NPS and DOI plans will be governed by the White House, CDC, and Utah health guidance throughout the COVID-19 national pandemic. Changes to this guidance… pic.twitter.com/Vmlzv4kIxQ
— Zion National Park (@ZionNPS) May 1, 2020
Some parks never officially closed (like Channel Islands). Some, like Yosemite, are such magnets for visitors that superintendents felt obliged to close them relatively early. Still others, like the Grand Canyon, closed later despite heavy visitor traffic.
At other parks, it’s harder to be sure what’s happening when.
Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks remain closed. In California, Yosemite, Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks remain closed.
But in hopes of reopening soon, the Oasis at Death Valley, a privately owned lodging inside that park, is taking reservations for June 15 and beyond.
Grand Teton National Park remains closed, but the Signal Mountain Lodge, sited on the park’s Jackson Lake, has announced plans to open June 5 through Oct. 17. Not all units will open. The lodge’s website explains that to make distancing possible, the site is mostly relying on units in which guests can cook for themselves, to improve social distancing.
But the lodge’s general store and gift shop are to open for roughly the same dates, with restaurants reduced to a grab-and-go menu. The lodge website says campground operations are expected to proceed as usual.
Meanwhile in the offices of Grand Teton National Park, spokeswoman Denise Germann cautions visitors not to jump to conclusions about the park reopening.
“What we’re looking at is, location by location, as it is deemed safe, parks will begin to reopen,” Germann said. “Any dates that anybody is putting out [from Grand Teton] are ‘no-earlier-than’ dates,” Germann said. “What we’re doing is working with local, regional and national health officials to open when it’s safe to do so.”
The lodge’s management, she said, is “identifying a date so that they can at least communicate with guests.” Lodge management did not immediately return a phone message.
National parks began planning the phased reopenings Thursday after the federal stay-at-home order expired.