5 Things to Know About Utah National Park Travel Amid COVID-19

Author:
Publish date:
National park ranger with a 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. When traveling to Utah's national parks, consider the surrounding states you will travel through. For instance, up until June 1, Montana requires travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when they enter the state. Arizona has a similar traveler quarantine order. If your vacation is only 10 days, you may want to plan your route according to which states will make it easiest for you to travel through to get to your destination.

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, Zion is not running its shuttle service. Visitor centers in Arches will remain closed. The lodges inside Zion and Bryce have delayed reopening dates. 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 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. 

Arches National Park

Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Arches National Park will be increasing recreational access starting May 29, 2020. 

Beginning May 29, Arches National Park National Park will resume allowing access to all park roads, trails, and restrooms and commercial operations as previously permitted. Climbing/canyoneering permits for Arches will be available for use starting May 30.

With public health in mind, the following facilities and services remain closed at this time: visitor centers and park stores, The Fiery Furnace and backcountry camping and Devils Garden Campground.

Fee collection continues to be suspended at both parks until further notice.

Visitors are encouraged to prepare ahead of time before they arrive at the park. Please consult park webpages and social media outlets for basic orientation and hiking information. Check out www.nps.gov/arch/.

While some areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and some services may be limited. 

In the event that visitation levels exceed parking capacity, traffic control measures may be taken. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders from the Southeast Utah Health Department at www.seuhealth.com, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of the park, visit the Arches National Park news site here www.nps.gov/arch/learn/news/

For camping reservations for Devils Garden Campground or the Fiery Furnace Loop tours, alerts and closures for Arches National Park, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2573

Follow Arches National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArchesNPS/

Bryce Canyon National Park

As of May 12, 2020, Bryce Canyon is increasing recreational access and services.

Currently visitors have access to the main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point, restrooms at Sunset Point and Inspiration Point (only restrooms open within the park) and trails within the Bryce Amphitheater area (though the Navajo Loop and Horse Trail will remain closed. Effective May 20, the park will begin collecting park entrance fees via traditional methods of credit card (preferred) and cash or park pass; digital fee collection via recreation.gov is not yet available at Bryce Canyon but will likely be announced soon as a preferred option.

Effective May 22, the General Store will reopen its camp store and restrooms from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, showers and laundry services will remain closed

The park is open 24/7, but there are no options for overnight stays.

The following facilities remain closed at this time:

  • Park Visitor Center and fee booths
  • Park campgrounds
  • Mossy Cave parking and trail area
  • Backcountry trails including the Under the Rim trail and campsites
  • Park concessions facilities

Camping Reservations

All campground reservations for the month of May have been cancelled and are in the process of being fully refunded. Effective June 7, Sunset Campground will reopen to the public for camping by reservation only—visit www.recreation.gov for reservation information

Effective no later than July 1, hiking of backcountry trails and permits for backcountry camping at sites along these trails will again be permitted - park backcountry trails include the Riggs Spring Loop, the Under-the-Rim Trail, and Under-the-Rim connecting trails. Find more information at www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/backcountryinfo.htm.

Ranger Programs

All ranger programs have been cancelled at this time.

Horse Rides

Private horse rides are not permitted at this time.Effective June 15th, private horse use reservations will resume within the park. Find more information at www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/horse.htm.

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of the park, visit the Bryce Canyon National Park news site here. www.nps.gov/brca/learn/news/

For camping reservations, alerts and closures for North and Sunset campgrounds for Bryce Canyon National Park, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2599

Follow Bryce Canyon National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BryceCanyonnps/

Canyonlands National Park


Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Canyonlands National Park will be increasing recreational access starting May 29, 2020.


Beginning May 29th, Canyonlands National Park will resume allowing access to:

  • All park roads, trails, and restrooms,
  • Commercial operations as previously permitted.

Backcountry permits for Canyonlands will be available for use starting May 30.

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

  • Visitor centers and park stores
  • Willow Flat Campground at Island in the Sky district and Needles Campground in The Needles district of Canyonlands.

Fee collection continues to be suspended at both parks until further notice.

Staff will continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public areas and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers. While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and some services may be limited. In the event that visitation levels exceed parking capacity, traffic control measures may be taken. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders from the Southeast Utah Health Department at www.seuhealth.com, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of the park, visit the Arches National Park news site here www.nps.gov/arch/learn/news/

For camping reservations for Devils Garden Campground or the Fiery Furnace Loop tours, alerts and closures for Arches National Park, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2573

Follow Arches National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArchesNPS/

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of Canyonlands National Park, visit the news site here. www.nps.gov/cany/learn/news/

For camping reservations, alerts and closures for Canyonlands National Park Needles District Campground, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2616

Follow Canyonlands National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CanyonlandsNPS/

Capitol Reef National Park

Beginning May 19, 2020, Capitol Reef National Park (NP) reopened access to Scenic Drive and all trails off Scenic Drive at 6 a.m. All trails along Hwy. 24., backcounty camping throughout the park (with a permit) and Canyoneering routes are open (with a permit), except for all routes in Shinob, Burro, Cottonwood, and 5-Mile canyons. These routes are temporarily closed due to resource concerns.

The following facilities and areas remain closed: The visitor center and Gifford House are closed until social distancing measures are installed over the next couple of weeks. 

Fruita Campground remains closed until June 2, 2020. Reservations are through www.recreation.gov Limited campsites in the park are available on a first-come first-served basis at Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa. Visitors are encouraged to utilize the private campgrounds within Wayne and Garfield counties, as well as the U.S. Forest Service public campgrounds and dispersed camping areas on public lands nearby. 

OHV’s, including ATV’s and UTV’s, continue to be prohibited within Capitol Reef National Park. 

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of Capitol Reef National Park, visit the news site here. www.nps.gov/care/learn/news/

For camping reservations, alerts and closures for the Capitol Reef group campground or the Fruita Campground for Capitol Reef National Park, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2617

Follow Capitol Reef National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CapitolReefNPS/

Zion National Park

Beginning May 13, 2020, Zion National Park will be open for day use, during daylight hours only. The park info sheet also describes what is open. Please remember that all openings are subject to change at any time.

Open Park Roads:

  • The collection of entrance fees has been temporarily suspended at Zion National Park. This is being done to help limit the exposure of park staff and visitors to COVID-19.
  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is open to private vehicles as parking allows. No vehicles over 23 feet long. Last entry to the Scenic Drive is 6pm.
  • The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (State Route 9) is open. It may be temporarily closed to vehicles in the event of severe traffic congestion.
  • Mount Carmel Tunnel – Escorts for large vehicles from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Open Trails:

  • Pa'rus Trail - A great hike from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center where there is usually plenty of parking.
  • Archeology Trail - Hike from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
  • Grotto Trail - A great way to hike from the parking at the Zion Lodge to the Grotto Trailhead.
  • Riverside Walk - The closest thing to the Narrows until the river level goes down.
  • Watchman Trail - A great hike from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center where there is usually plenty of parking.
  • Sand Bench Trail - a longer moderate hike that can be started from the Court of the Patriarchs.
  • Upper Emerald Pools and the Kayenta Trail - the only access to Upper Emerald Pools is from the Grotto Trailhead and the Kayenta Trail. Lower Emerald Pools remains closed.
  • The West Rim Trail to Scout Lookout - The Angels Landing Chains Section remains closed.

Operations Open:

  • Rangers are patrolling park land.
  • Zion Forever bookstore is open 9 am - 4 pm.
  • Outdoor visitor orientation and information services will be in designated areas near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

Hiking During Limited Operations

  • In and out day hiking from all trailheads only.
  • Hikers must remain on established trails.
  • No cross-country travel or off-trail travel.
  • Hop Valley trail can not be used to access Kolob Canyons area.

What Remains Closed?

Closed Areas and Activities:

  • Kolob Canyons
  • Zion Lodge (some services resumed May 21)
  • Campgrounds
  • Museum and Theater
  • Angels Landing Chains Section
  • Canyon Overlook Trail
  • Wilderness and Recreation Permits (this includes the Subway).
  • Climbing and canyoneering
  • Overnight Backpacking or any through hiking.
  • The Narrows (due to high flow)
  • Lower Emerald Pools Trail (due to trail construction)
  • Weeping Rock area, including Observation Point (via East Rim Trail from Weeping Rock), Hidden Canyon, and Weeping Rock Trails (due to rockfall)

COVID-19 Health Guidance:

  • Maintain six-foot social distancing.
  • Do not exceed group size limits.
  • Wash hands with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • Hand sanitizer available near restrooms.

Zion's shuttle operation is temporarily suspended. Visitors may drive themselves. Parking is limited in Zion Canyon - visitors should expect intermittent closures of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive when capacity is reached. Zion is currently open for day use only. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is a 6-mile road with roughly 400 parking spots.

If visiting, please park legally and responsibly. An alternative to the Zion Scenic Canyon Drive is SR-9. Additionally, more parking is available at the Visitor Center, which is a starting point for The Pa'rus and Watchman Trails. It will help to have a backup plan if the Scenic Drive closes.

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of the Zion National Park, visit the news site here www.nps.gov/zion/learn/news/

Follow Zion National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zionnps/

Dinosaur National Monument

Beginning May 13, 2020, all monument roads and trails will be open.

Dinosaur National Monument’s Quarry Visitor Center and the Quarry Exhibit Hall are closed until further notice. The monument bookstore operated by Intermountain Natural History Association inside the Quarry Visitor Center is also closed. The online store can be found here: futuresite.inhaweb.com.

All river trips/operations in Dinosaur National Monument are canceled until further notice. All monument campgrounds are closed. All backcountry camping is suspended including camping at the Ely Creek designated backcountry sites in Jones Hole.

Drinking water will not be available at this time and access to restrooms may be limited in some areas.

While the listed areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased, and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders including the practice of social distancing, avoid crowding, wearing masks, if appropriate, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. Also, please practice Leave No Trace principles, and avoid crowding and high-risk outdoor activities.

For up-to-date information, visit www.nps.gov/dino/index.htm.

Follow Dinosaur National Monument on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DinosaurNPS

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

Related