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Utah’s 'Mighty 5' to reopen by end of May with guidelines. Here’s what to expect at every park

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - May 12, 2020 at 1:44 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s national parks, which all closed by early April amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are slowly reopening following a request from state and federal leaders — and all five of Utah’s national parks are expected to be reopened by the end of the month.

Zion National Park will be the latest to join the growing list when it reopens Wednesday with some stripped back services. Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks have already reopened — albeit without some traditional park amenities.

Officials for Arches and Canyonlands national parks said Monday those parks will reopen on May 29, which is the Friday after the Memorial Day weekend. The two parks near Moab closed on March 28 amid coronavirus concerns and were the first among the Mighty 5 to close down during the pandemic. All five parks were closed for weeks after Capitol Reef National Park closed on April 9.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who had called for national parks to close in early April, said on April 17 that the state had started conversations with the National Park Service to reopen national parks in Utah. That came the same day he lifted a rule that closed state parks to everyone except for residents of the county that park was located in. President Donald Trump called for national parks to reopen five days later.

National parks across the U.S. have slowly reopened since then, but, there are and will be some closures and limited services. Here’s what to expect for all five of Utah’s national parks:

General national park guidelines

The National Park Service has guidelines for all reopened national parks, including those in Utah. The guidelines include keeping at least 6 feet separation between other park visitors; washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or with hand sanitizer; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands; and covering all coughs and sneezes with your elbow.

Of course, stay home and don’t visit a park if you have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Arches

All park roads, trails and restrooms will be opened when Arches National Park reopens on May 29. All commercial operations that were previously permitted will also be allowed. Backcountry and climbing or canyoneering permits will be available on May 30.

Visitor’s centers and park stores will remain closed. Fiery Furnace and the Devils Garden campground, will also remain closed until further notice, as is backcountry camping.

Fee collections at the park remain closed until further notice.

More information about the park's closures and guidelines can be found at nps.gov/arch.

Bryce Canyon

The park’s main road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point are currently open, as are trails within the Bryce Amphitheater and the restrooms at Sunset Point and Inspiration Point.

The park’s visitor center and fee booths remain closed and there are no options for overnight stays because the park’s campgrounds are closed. The park’s Navajo Loop and Horse Trail are also closed. Other closures include Fairland Road, the Mossy Cave parking and trail area, all backcountry trails including the Under the Rim trail and campsites, park concessions facilities, ranger programs and private horse rides.

More information about the park's closures and guidelines can be found at nps.gov/brca.

Canyonlands

All park roads, trails and restrooms will be opened when Canyonlands National Park reopens on May 29. All commercial operations that were previously permitted will also be allowed. Backcountry and climbing or canyoneering permits will be available on May 30.

Visitors centers and park stores will remain closed. In addition, the Willow Flat campground at the Island in the Sky district and the Needles campground in the Needles district of the park will remain closed.

Fee collections at the park remain closed until further notice. More information about the park's closures and guidelines can be found at nps.gov/cany.

Capitol Reef

Day use of the remote Waterpocket Fold and Cathedral Valley areas reopened Monday. Overnight stays at the primitive Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley campgrounds also reopened, along with the Goosenecks Overlook and Sunset Point trail, Panorama Point and the road to those trailheads and non-trailhead pullouts along state Route 24 for scenic viewing.

Aside from Panorama Point, Goosenecks Overlook and Sunset Point, Scenic Drive and all trailheads, trails, canyoneering and climbing routes that can be reached from S.R. 24 and Scenic Drive remain closed. Overnight use of any other campgrounds aside from Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley is prohibited; the park’s visitor center, Gifford House and Fruita campgrounds are closed.

Backpacking is suspended until further notice and permits will not be issued. Commercial use authorizations for overnight use or hiking is also suspended.

More information about the park's closures and guidelines can be found at nps.gov/care.

Zion

Zion National Park reopens with limited operations Wednesday. It will be open during daylight hours only, and there’s a possibility that the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway could be closed temporarily in case of severe traffic congestion. During this time, park officials say shuttles will not be running and parking is limited. Scenic Drive will close when the parking lot is full.

Other park closures include the chains section of Angels Landing, the Canyon Overlook trail, Kolob Canyons, Zion Lodge (some services resuming on May 21), the Narrows (due to high water flow), the Weeping Rock area, all of the park’s overnight backpacking and campgrounds, the park’s museum and theater, wilderness and recreation permits.

The guidelines that go into effect Wednesday will last until at least May 21, when new guidelines may be issued. More information about the park's closures and guidelines can be found at nps.gov/zion.

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