With parks re-opening around the country this week, you, like us, likely have questions. Which parks are open? Will they be well-staffed? Will visitor services be available?
Frustratingly for travelers, many parks are opening in phases, some are not opening at all, some will be well-staffed, others not so much. Park superintendents and state government officials interpret health data and set up guidelines for each park, so the potential for confusion and a bit of chaos at parks is certainly high.
Late winter and early spring often sees national parks interviewing and hiring seasonal staff, including rangers, and, needless to say, that process has been largely halted in recent months. So it’s fair to expect skeleton crews at many parks, and a lack of visitor amenities.
None of this addresses what the requirements for gateway communities will be, with some cities, counties, and states still adhering to strict social distancing guidelines, others, not so much. If you’re planning to venture to an open park, there will be homework.
And a new study, which we’ll cover in greater detail later this week, was just released that shows millions of Americans are planning road trips to national parks this summer, eager for outdoor life to return to normal.
The following is a list of major national park units that are open now or scheduled to be soon. As always, check with each park’s website for information about specifically what camping and recreational possibilities exist.
Arches National Park, Utah: Re-opening May 29, though campgrounds are still closed. Climbing permits available starting May 30.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota: Park roads, campgrounds, and trails open; Visitor center and entrance stations closed.
Big Bend National Park, Texas: Estimated opening is June 1.
Black Canyon National Park, Colorado: Most roads open, campgrounds on North and South Rims closed. Some areas require use permits to enter.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah: Main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point open as are trails in Bryce Amphitheater area. Campgrounds closed.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah: Re-opening May 29. Backcountry permits available May 30. Campgrounds remain closed.
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah: Backcountry camping and canyoneering routes (with exceptions) throughout the park available with permit. Permits can be obtained by self registration outside the visitor center; canyoneering routes are open (with a permit), except for all routes in Shinob, Burro, Cottonwood, and FiveMile canyons. Fruita Campground to open June 2.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky: All trails have reopened, backcountry campsites still closed.
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming: Re-opening May 22, though visitor center and campground will remain closed.
Everglades National Park, Florida: Many areas and campsites open, though wilderness campsites closed.
Glacier National Park, Montana: Remains closed with officials planning to announce opening date in coming weeks.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: South Rim areas opened May 15-18 for day-use temporarily. Park currently deciding next opening steps.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Hiking, fishing, road access now open. Campgrounds and backcountry camping closed.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina: Most sections of park to open May 22.
Joshua Tree National Park, California: Re-opened May 18. Visitor centers and group campsites still, however, closed.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington: Backcountry hiking open.
Olympic National Park, Washington: Some roads in the northern section of the park now open; wide-scale re-opening not yet announced.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri: Guides and outfitters allowed for river trips, provided they adhere to health guidelines.
Pinnacles National Park, California: Campers with reservations may camp; park is closed to day use access.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: Major campgrounds scheduled to open Memorial Day Weekend. Backcountry camping available with permit starting May 27.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Wyoming gates re-opened May 18. Montana and Idaho entrances not yet open. Travel largely restricted to Grand Loop Road. Camping not yet available.
Yosemite National Park, California: Closed, potential to open in July.
Zion National Park, Utah: Opened May 13, though with restrictions on vehicular traffic. Camping remains closed, as does the Angels Landing chain section. Climbing also not yet available.
Photo: Nick Dunlap