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 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.
On May 2021, the National Park Service announced updated mask guidance allows for fully vaccinated visitors to enter federal buildings without masks, although it is still preferred for all visitors to wear masks, especially where social distancing cannot be maintained.
However, wearing masks is still required on all forms of commercial and public transportation in Yellowstone National Park at this time regardless of vaccination or negative test. This includes all family members or visitors over the age of two.
Masks must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. Masks not designed to be protective, masks with ventilation valves, and face shields do not meet the requirement.
How to Be an Informed and Mindful Traveler
Amid the global pandemic, 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 2020, 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.
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, major hotels in Grand Teton National Park did not open during summer 2020. Yellowstone did not open Snow Lodge in winter 2021. 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. 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 months, don’t throw caution to the wind. 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.
Yellowstone National Park
Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Yellowstone National Park is open, but not all of its services are.
For instance, a fair amount of the park’s dining options have changed dramatically to be take-out only for summer 2021 like Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill, Mammoth Terrace Grillm Old Faithful Snow Lodge Dining Room, Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria, Old Faithful Lodge Bake and Ice Cream Shop, Mammoth Dining Room, Mammoth Map Room Bar & Espresso, Canyon Lodge Eatery, Canyon Lodge Falls Cafe, Lake Hotel Deli, Old Faithful Inn Bear Paw Deli, Lake Lodge Wylie’s Canteen starting June 10, Grant Village Dining Room and Grant Village Lake House starting June 18.
Lake Hotel Dining Room is offering limited breakfast and dinner dine-in available for hotel guests only. Roosevelt Lodge Dining Room is offering limited dine-in available. Bar available for take-out beverages only.
To get up-to-date news and “alerts,” go to the Yellowstone news site. www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/
Follow the park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YellowstoneNPS
Increasing Mitigation Efforts
The park has implemented significant mitigation efforts including: providing additional protective barriers where needed, encouraging the use of masks or facial coverings in high density areas, metering visitor access in certain locations, increasing cleaning frequency of facilities, adding signage on boardwalks and other public spaces, and messaging to visitors through a variety of methods.
Visitors should come prepared and follow all CDC and local health guidance by practicing good hygiene and social distancing. Face coverings are recommended where social distancing is not possible. People who are sick should stay home and not visit the park. The CDC has provided specific guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/visitors.html.
Which Yellowstone Lodging is Open
Find out the latest at Yellowstone National Park Lodges: www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/health-and-safety/
In the meanwhile, the park staff is advising travelers to enjoy Yellowstone virtually via webcams, virtual tours, photo galleries, apps, videos, and other digital content at www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/ and www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/app.htm.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is open but some of its services are operating in a limited capacity for summer 2021. For instance in Jackson Lake Lodge’s Mural Dining Room, visitors can dine in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but the restaurant is operating under limited capacity. Dinner reservations are required. The Blue Heron Lounge in Jackson Lake Lodge is open for beverage service only and is walk-in only.
Check for updates about what’s open in terms of dining options, as well as Jenny Lake Lodge and Jackson Lake Lodge and campgrounds.
Note that beginning in spring 2021, travelers will be able to book Colter Bay Campground, Jenny Lake Campground and Gros Ventre Campground in advance at recreation.gov. Prior to this year, these campgrounds were first-come, first-served. They have now moved to a reservation model, so that travelers can plan a camping trip and hit the road to the park, knowing they have a guaranteed place to sleep with their reservation at a campground.
For specific park service information about openings and closures in Grand Teton National Park and to see “alerts,” you can visit the official Grand Teton National Park news page www.nps.gov/grte/learn/news/.
Follow the park on Facebook, you can go to the Official Grand Teton National Park Facebook page www.facebook.com/GrandTetonNPS/.
Campsite information is available on Recreation.gov: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/13525
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