Three more of southern Utah’s marquee national parks, as well as Dinosaur National Monument, have scheduled reopenings this month as part of the National Park Service’s phased approach to increasing recreational access at its destinations shuttered last month in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Zion — Utah’s most popular national park — is to open Wednesday, but many visitor services, including the shuttle, visitors center and attractions will not be available right away. Don’t expect to visit, for instance, Angels Landing, Kolob Canyons, the campgrounds, and most of the wilderness hikes that require permits.
When Arches and Canyonlands open their gates May 29, nearly all trails, roads and restrooms will be available to the public, but the campgrounds, visitors centers and stores will remain closed, those parks announced Monday.
Previously permitted commercial guiding will also resume at that time, but Arches’ Fiery Furnace will remain closed to all hiking because the trail is so narrow in many places, making it impossible for visitors to maintain appropriate social distance, according to Angie Richman, the parks’ chief of interpretation.
"That trail is so narrow in places that it is impossible for us to keep people safe in there," Richman said. "We don't know when we will be able to reopen it."
Permits for most of Arches and Canyonlands' backcountry destinations, including the White Rim, will be available.
These two parks, which were among the first to close in Utah, are reopening much later than most of the state's other sites run by the park service. Insufficient staffing is part of the issue, but another key factor was the wishes of local officials who are concerned about drawing tourists into Moab too soon.
“Both the mayor of Moab and Grand County representatives sent us a letter encouraging us to not reopen until May 29,” Richman said. “We are trying to take guidance from local authorities.”
May 29 is four days after Memorial Day, normally a weekend when Moab is teeming with people seeking outdoor adventures. It also is a few days after most of the two parks’ seasonal staffers will arrive, according to Richman.
The majority come from out of state, so they will be subject to a 14-day quarantine before reporting for duty.
“We rely so much on our seasonals,” Richman said. “We will be providing as much of their training as we can during the quarantine. They won’t be able to come into our workspaces until June. 7. We will continue to phase in our services throughout the summer.”
A similar limited reopening is set for Dinosaur, which will resume allowing the public to hike trails starting Wednesday. There’s a catch for the Colorado side, which appears to be available only to those who live nearby.
“The current state [Colorado] guidance directs that outdoor recreation must be within one’s community and/or no further than 10 miles from residence,” said a news release issued by the monument Monday.
Overnight travel, campgrounds, river trips, the dinosaur quarry and visitors center will remain closed at Dinosaur beyond Wednesday with no announced opening dates for those amenities that would normally support guests’ experience.
Last week, Bryce and Capitol Reef saw limited openings, while Glen Canyon National Recreational Area has opened Lake Powell’s boat ramps for weekend use.
No fees will be collected at any national park until further notice. Officials advise visitors to check park websites beforehand to get the latest information on what is open and which services are available.