Since the beginning of the pandemic, The National Park Service has closed off certain trailheads, lodges, and even shuttle routes in hopes of making the parks a socially distant environment. Even seven months after COVID-19 hit the U.S., the park service is still keeping certain attractions off limits to the public. As the winter season creeps up, the parks will undergo another addition of closures due to weather restrictions.
After an extensive time of quarantining and bunkering down, people want to embark on an outdoor adventure now more than ever. The National Park Service in southern Utah has seen a surprising surge of visitation during the most recent months. In September of 2019, the park saw 497,443 visitors. This year, there were 520,987 recreation visits in September alone.
The National Park Service is taking precautions to help hikers, campers and explorers get the most out of their time while experiencing the outdoors. Because the shuttles in Zion are not filling to capacity, those who are interested in visiting the park should anticipate getting a shuttle pass ahead of time.
In order to social distance as much as possible, it is recommended by park rangers and staff members that those wanting to enter a park choose their visitation dates with consideration of others.
“Visitors who can be flexible with their schedule are encouraged to visit Friday or Monday rather than Saturday or Sunday.” said Zion National Park’s Acting Chief of Interpretation, Amanda Rowland.
Bryce Canyon National Park is operating as usual and will not require a reservation upon entry. The majority of the trailheads and visitor attractions have managed to remain open, with the exception of places like the General Store, Sunset Campground and The Lodge.
Located just 30 minutes east of Cedar City is Cedar Breaks National Monument. The visitor and information centers, campgrounds and restrooms are closed for the season. This grand amphitheatre however, has kept their trails open.
Regardless of closures, the parks are enforcing their “Leave no Trace” principles which aim to remind folks about leaving the land better than before. These seven principles cover Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, and Be Considerate of Other Visitors.
Story by: Lainie Hallows
Photos by: SUU Journal Archives