Both the ferry ride and interior cell house access will require advanced reservations.


One of San Francisco's most popular attractions will welcome back visitors next week. In a release issued yesterday, the National Park Service (NPS) announced that Alcatraz Island will reopen on Monday, March 15, with safety measures in place.

The move comes under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as California state and local public health experts. As part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, federal mask mandates will be required when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Additionally, visitors will need to make reservations ahead of time for the ferry via Alcatraz Cruises, which will run at a reduced capacity. Those wanting to access the inside of the cell house will need to sign up for an audio tour. The in-person tours and ranger talks will not resume yet, though rangers will be available to help with directions and safety measures.

Alcatraz Island
Credit: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty

The outdoor areas — including Sally Port, Eagle Plaza, Recreation Yard, and the gardens — will be accessible to all visitors, as will China Alley and the lower Building 64 spaces. Social distancing markers and hand-sanitizing stations will also be in place, along with increased cleaning. Food consumption will not be allowed on the ferry or the island.

"We have been working closely with our public health partners to align our operations with local guidance and provide access to the island for the first time this year," Golden Gate National Recreation Area superintendent Laura Joss said in a statement. "We expect everyone to follow CDC guidance, wear a mask, and give each other space to safely enjoy their experience at this iconic site."

The site will reopen almost exactly a year after it first closed on March 14, 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, The Mercury News reported. While the outdoor areas reopened in August, they were closed again in early December.

Alcatraz Island, which welcomed more than one and a half million visitors before the pandemic, has served many purposes over the years, including as a fort and military prison. It's perhaps best known for its time as a maximum security federal penitentiary, as well as the 1969 American Indian occupation. An exhibit on the latter is currently on display at the island's New Industries Building.