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5 Things to Know About Utah National Park Travel Amid 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.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert passed a mandatory mask ordinance for public spaces for the entire state starting in Nov. 9,  2020. Under the new mask requirement, all Utah residents must wear masks in public and when within 6 feet of anyone they don’t live with.

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. 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

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

Bryce Canyon is open but not all services may be open. 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 is open but not all services may be available. 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/

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.

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

To follow 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

Shuttle service was suspended temporarily last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect public health, all buses have been modified to meet COVID-19 guidelines. The modified buses carry a smaller number of passengers per trip and Zion is working with Recreation.gov to provide tickets for the shuttle to reduce lines, crowding, and congestion, while providing visitors with more certainty about access to the Scenic Drive.

The shuttle provides access to trails and viewpoints in Zion Canyon along the Scenic Drive including the West Rim trail, the Emerald Pools, the Riverside Walk, and The Narrows. All other areas of the park will not require a shuttle ticket, but park entrance fees apply.

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/

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.

Dinosaur National Monument

Services and openings and closings are changing on an ongoing basis. For up-to-date information, visit www.nps.gov/dino/index.htm.

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