Yellowstone’s reopening plan will begin May 18, while the Grand Canyon's will take place over the duration of May 15 to May 18.

By Cailey Rizzo
May 14, 2020
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The southern end of Yellowstone National Park is seen at the Lewis River and Lewis Falls.
NurPhoto/Getty

As states gradually start to begin their post-COVID reopening plans, both Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks are joining the list of outdoor destinations that will be accessible over the coming days.

Yellowstone’s reopening plan will begin May 18. Their three-phase plan begins by opening up the park’s South and East entrances in Wyoming. Visitors will be able to access the park’s lower loop, which leads to Lake, Canyon, Norris, Old Faithful, West Thumb and Grant Village.

Reopening plans are limited to Wyoming as it is the only state that has lifted out-of-state travel restrictions. As Montana and Idaho lift their restrictions, the park’s other entrances will open to visitors.

Restrooms, self-service gas stations, trails and boardwalks in these areas will be open to visitors at this time. Phase 2 of the reopening will include campgrounds, visitor cabins and takeout food service. Phase 3 includes hotels, full-service dining and commercial bus tours of the park.

“The park’s goal is to open safely and conservatively, ensure we take the right actions to reduce risks to our employees and visitors, and help local economies begin to recover,” Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement. “I appreciate the cooperation we’ve had with our surrounding governors, counties, communities, and health officials in working through these challenging decisions. Our goal is to get the remaining entrances open as quickly and safely as possible.”

A crowd of tourists gather at Mather Point Lookout, located on the South Rim, to watch the sunrise in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona in November 2019.
George Rose/Getty Images

At Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, a partial reopening is planned for the park’s South Rim South Entrance from May 15 through 18. Traffic will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for daytime access to viewpoints, picnic areas and restrooms, however all hiking trails remain closed at this time. The park recommends arriving no later than 9:30 a.m. in case of traffic.

"This initial reopening phase will increase access to our public lands in a responsible way by offering the main feature of the park for the public, the view of the canyon, while reducing the potential exposure of COVID-19 to our nearly 2,500 residents," Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Ed Keable said in a statement.

Other national parks around the country are also beginning their plans for gradual reopening. Zion National Park announced it would welcome groups of fewer than 12 people this week. And Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopened last week, welcoming visitors from 26 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a guide to prevent the spread of infectious diseases while at a park. At this time, visitors should only visit parks that are close to their homes and maintain proper social distancing while out.