Wondering When The National Parks Will Open

UtahBrian

God bless America. Let's save some of it.
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Feb 15, 2018
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I made a reservation for a backcountry permit out of Yosemite Valley on 28 June 2020. I intend to hike something like Skurka's high route around the rim of the park, probably with side treks to Mount Lyell, the pools in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, Mount Starr King, and the Emigrant Wilderness. Eleven days or so.

I bought a plane ticket to Sacramento and a Amtrak reservation to the park.

I've been dreaming of swimming in the Merced River and the Tuolumne. And those clean black and white stone cirques with impossible blue mirror lakes and the smell of Yosemite conifers in summer. Waterfall mist in my face on a hot day. U shaped canyons of sheer rock with gentle waters running in oxbows across the valley floor.

But now the governor is closing the beaches and state parks even as other states try to ease up. California is both ridiculously overpopulated and and infected with a nanny state obsession where everything interesting has to be caged and all the viewpoints need handrails.

And I can't imagine how the Yosemite Valley can re-open, even if other parks with less dense crowding will be able to. It's easy to imagine Glacier or Rocky Mountain or Capitol Reef or Canyonlands coming up with a plan to keep people apart and spread them around. But Yosemite Valley is just packed with people all summer long. It's a hard problem like Zion where they need shuttle buses and there's little hope of keeping riders at a safe distance or Grand Canyon where the photo viewpoints get jammed up. And the parks are not known for making any effort to welcome backcountry visitors if the casual tourists aren't coming.

So now I have my doubts that the park will be open in June. I wonder if I'll regret not going a week later. Seems like July is a better bet, though still far from certain.

I actually wrote to the Yosemite reservation system managers and asked for a hint, but they just said I was welcome to change my date or even to hold two reservations for different dates and that they'd eventually process requests whenever the park opens.

--

Today I booked an airline reservation to Oregon instead. Actually the reservation is to Idaho, but I'll be taking a bus ride from the airport over the border to go hike the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It has glacial carved granite valleys like Yosemite. Maybe I'll take a kayak down the Grande Ronde backcountry after backpacking, since that's adjacent to the Eagle Cap.

My two reservations are for the same day, Yosemite or Oregon. I still want to go to Yosemite, but I just doubt I'll be able to. I'm going to have to cancel one of these two plane tickets eventually.
 

Wanderlust073

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I’d cancel Yosemite. Sand Dunes NP shut down with no targeted reopening date because Saguache and Alamosa counties (3 and 10 infections respectively) are afraid of visitors rolling through. That’s in a state already reopening and with only around 700 or so deaths. I don’t see Newsom letting up any time soon short of riots or court orders, flattened curves notwithstanding, and the parks don’t seem to want to scuffle with local authorities.

Good luck!
 

ridings82

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Feb 2, 2017
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I (finally) pulled a Glacier permit for the northern loop from Many Glacier for 2020 in the heart of August. Glacier just emailed everyone that ALL 2020 backcountry permits were being canceled. If the park reopens, they'll move everything to first come, first serve. I wouldn't be surprised if Yosemite and Yellowstone follow suit in the near future. Yosemite likely needs to coordinate a plan and any corresponding cancellations with the nearby national forests because of all of the different agencies that issue JMT permits.

I was pissed when I received that email. It didn't even say they'd push it to 2021 which is the most frustrating part. I could have accepted that. I also had the permit for August, not mid-June. I felt like a cancellation of a socially-distanced backcountry permit in August could have waited a tad longer before pulling the trigger. I'll probably end up in the Uintas, Bitterroots, or Beartooths, where I don't need a reservation/permit and it's unlikely to be closed, regardless of the COVID situation. Of course, all of that can change. Good luck and stay safe.
 

ImNotDedYet

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Keep in mind that many of the parks requested the ability to close from the Department of the Interior due to the local communities in that area not being able to support a heavy load of infections, and fearing that tourists would be bringing the infections.

Also keep in mind that President Trump has said a couple times that he plans on getting the parks open soon.

So it seems like it will come down to the pressure from the communities vs. the pressure from the president. This is federal land, not state land.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Mar 1, 2015
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I have a permit for Rocky Mountain National Park for June and I haven't received a cancellation email yet.

To the OP: have fun in the Eagle Cap Wilderness if that's where you end up going! That area has been on my radar for some years now
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
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It's a difficult call for the gateway towns to make. Most depend heavily on tourism but clearly don't have resources to manage an outbreak. Over 2M go through Jackson Hole for example. That's about 1/2 of those visiting Yellowstone. While it's easy to avoid people at trailheads and on the trail, everything else involves risk of exposure. Particularly an airline flight. As the OP stated, places like Zion that use buses would be a huge risk.

Yellowstone and GTNP remain closed. The main lodging company has closed several lodges for the entire season. Campgrounds set to open June 15, so I am assuming they have coordinated with the Parks to release that date.

I'm looking forward to my September trip to Wyoming and hope that no major outbreaks happen. But, the virus will still be circulating and I have no doubt that there will be many cases seen, regardless of precautions. The statistics simply favor the virus. Early detection and containment seem to be among the best options. Implementing that for so many tourists is probably the major topic of discussion.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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The Denali Park road was closed for a few weeks, but not the Park. They are starting to phase into opening the road, a section at a time. Some of the delay there is due to the annual spring clearing. Park officials are considering going to a lottery system for the summer, rather than the shuttle buses, which will be great if I can draw 2-3 permits. Luckily there are other ways to gain entrance into the park than just the road, so we'll have some decent (lesser known) access into the park, assuming we are allowed to travel to different communities by then.

Princess Cruise Lines/Tours has announced that they are shut down for the summer up here as has one of the other major cruise ship operators. Princess also has several hotels that are intertwined with their cruise ships, none of which will open. A major hit for southeast Alaska communities, and communities along the Parks Highway. Likely going to be very quiet up here this summer. Luckily for us, we can access a lot of great country without threatening smaller communities.
 

zionsky

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Dec 23, 2018
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Zion is reopening on May 13th with limited access (more details on that to come) Curious how they'll manage the shuttle buses (when they resume)
 

SteveR

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Sep 22, 2016
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Canada's national parks will remain closed until the end of May, at least. In Alberta- not a huge concern for us right now as ski season in the mountain parks- Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho-would be winding down now anyway, for most, and summer hiking is a long ways off. Good news is that access was re-opened on May 1 to the Alberta Provincial parks, recreation areas and public land use zones, which are where we spend most of our outdoor time, especially in the spring.
 

ImNotDedYet

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It's a difficult call for the gateway towns to make. Most depend heavily on tourism but clearly don't have resources to manage an outbreak. Over 2M go through Jackson Hole for example. That's about 1/2 of those visiting Yellowstone. While it's easy to avoid people at trailheads and on the trail, everything else involves risk of exposure. Particularly an airline flight. As the OP stated, places like Zion that use buses would be a huge risk.

Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park's east side has said many of the businesses there can't survive another month. As it is, with the phased openings and likely lack of traveling by many this summer, I'm guessing a number of businesses won't make it. :(
 

Wanderlust073

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Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park's east side has said many of the businesses there can't survive another month. As it is, with the phased openings and likely lack of traveling by many this summer, I'm guessing a number of businesses won't make it. :(

Estes Park is the reason the National Park is closed. Seems like an outcome they could really easily change...
 

Miya

Because I am able.
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Dec 31, 2017
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Tough to say.
In CA, BLM land, some national forests, and wilderness areas are still open. I was out this weekend in Plumas, which is still open to backpacking and it was so congested! I think because so many areas are closed, like Yosemite, it is causing people to cram themselves in areas that normally wouldn't be crowded.
If you do end up out here and Yosemite is still closed, hopefully other areas will still be open for you to hike and enjoy!
 
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