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 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.
In Yellowstone, individuals over the age of two years must wear masks, except when actively eating or drinking, in the following locations:
- All common areas and shared workspaces in buildings owned, rented or leased by the National Park Service, including, but not limited to, park visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops and restaurants.
- Outdoor areas where physical distancing (staying at least six feet apart) cannot reasonably be maintained.
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. 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.
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.
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 closed.
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed or services are unavailable at this time: park visitor center, overnight lodging, food service, boating/floating on river and lakes, marinas, backcountry permits, special-use permits and campgrounds.
In terms of lodging in the park for summer 2021, check for updates about Jenny Lake Lodge and Jackson Lake Lodge and campgrounds at www.gtlc.com/coronavirus.
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
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