National parks in the West are starting to open their gates, and more are likely to follow as the National Park Service boosts access and services in a “phased approach across all units” of the system. Each park said it has worked with federal as well as local public health officials in crafting reopening plans.
Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California plans to reopen all hiking trails (except Bumpass Hell) on May 29. The park’s 30-mile park highway as well as Butte Lake and Warner Valley roads also will reopen. Permitted backcountry camping will resume May 29 too.
Also, Manzanita Lake and Southwest walk-in campgrounds will open June 1. Other seasonal campgrounds will open on previously scheduled dates; check dates at Lassen’s website. The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and Loomis Museum remain closed.
Joshua Tree National Park east of Los Angeles partially reopened May 17. Campgrounds as well as most restrooms have reopened. Visitor centers and group campsites remain closed. The park closed April 1 over coronavirus fears.
In many cases, national parks are reopening as they closed — by varying timetables, depending on the park and its region. The agency said decisions would follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as regional and local health authorities.
The CDC has dedicated a web page for visitors on how to stay safe in park settings.
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona opens selected locations on the South Rim from 6 to 10 a.m. with plans to increase access later this month. “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,” a May 13 announcement said.
The popular summer destination began the limited reopening May 15. Travelers were allowed to drive to Shoshone Point, Pipe Creek Vista and other viewpoints before turning around at Navajo Point. Some picnic areas and restrooms will reopen too.
Visitors should bring food, water and hand sanitizer because stores and restaurants will not be open. Also, the east entrance, Desert View area, Rim Trail and all hiking trails in the canyon, Grand Canyon Village and the Colorado River area remain closed.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which straddles Utah and Arizona, is opening in phases. . Boat rentals and ramps at Bullfrog and Wahweap for houseboats, power boats and personal watercraft are open daily for overnight visitors. Also, the Bullfrog RV Park and Campground will reopen too.
Starting May 22, most of Glen Canyon’s 1.25 million acres of lakeside shoreline and hiking trails will be accessible to the public.
Yellowstone reopened two of five park entrances in Wyoming — one near Cody and one near Jackson — that showed 90% and 60% respectively of the normal number of vehicles returning to the park, according to a park statement. Visitors are limited to “Lake, Grant and Canyon villages as well as Old Faithful and West Thumb. Montana entrances, back-country trails, campgrounds and lodgings remain closed.”
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming also will partially reopened May 18. Primary roads, some restrooms and hiking trails will be open but campgrounds and overnight lodgings remain shut. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado plans to allow back-country camping permits starting May 27 and will open two campgrounds, Moraine Park and Glacier Basin, starting June 4.
Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California reopened trail heads and parking lots as well as restrooms, though guests are advices to grind their own soap and hand sanitizer. Visitor centers and campgrounds remain closed.
However, other California national parks, except for Joshua Tree, pretty much remain closed. Temporary closures in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument and Fort Point National Historic Site will remain in place because stay-at-home orders for six counties in the Bay Area have been extended through May.
Parking restrictions continue at places such as Muir, Stinson and Rodeo beaches. Alcatraz Island, the Presidio Visitor Center, Fort Point National Historic Site, Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center, Muir Woods and other areas have not yet reopened.
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. At other parks, it’s harder to be sure what’s happening when. 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.
The move to begin reopening parks brought complaints from the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a group representing 1,800 current, former, and retired employees and volunteers of the National Park Service. The group contends the decision was premature.
Meanwhile, Utah has started to reopen its big parks. Arches and Canyonlands national parks will open park roads, trails and restrooms starting May 29. Back-country permits for Canyonlands and climbing or canyoneering trips in Arches will be available May 30, an announcement said.
However, visitor centers and park stores will remain closed. Camping in the back-country and at Fiery Furnace and Devils Garden campgrounds in Arches as well as Willow Flat and Needles camping areas are still shut.
Zion National Park opened selected areas May 13. Capitol Reef National Park opened May 5 to day-use in Cathedral Valley and Waterpocket Fold. Overnight stays are allowed in Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley campgrounds.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah opened trails around the red-rock spires of the Bryce Amphitheater, its most visited area6. 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.
Dinosaur National Monument in Jensen, Utah, reopened roads and trails, but visitor centers and campgrounds remain closed. Also, visitors are asked to bring their own drinking water as there won’t be access to water.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii reopened Mauna Loa Road to Kipukapuaulu for vehicles, bicyclists and hikers. The road past Kipukapuaulu is open for hikers and bicyclists to the Mauna Loa Overlook at 6,662 feet in elevation.
The park also opened the Footprints Trail from Highway 11 to the Kau Desert Trail and Mauna Iki Trail junction and Escape Road, for bicycling, horseback riding and hiking to the Mauna Ulu junction.
In other areas, Everglades National Park in Florida reopened some boat launch ramps, campgrounds and restrooms; Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee allows visitors on many roads and trails.
The Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from Tennessee to Virginia, opened the southernmost 14 miles of the park May 9. Also, North Carolina portions of the route, including the popular Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain areas, have reopened.
In Denali National Park, rangers have opened a portion of Denali Park Road, allowing the public into the park again, and NPS officials have said the shortage of cruise visitors this summer could open more room for visitors by car. Several lodges at the end of the park road in the Denali community of Kantishna are making plans to open this summer, an NPS notice said, noting the spring plowing operations “are on schedule to get the road open for summer.”
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, in Kentucky and Tennessee, reopened access to trails and backcountry camping.
Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee reopened trails connecting to the Stones River Greenway and visitor center parking lot.
Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia reopened access to its beaches, public docking spaces and trails.