Yell Opening COVID-19 Map 2020

Portions of Yellowstone, GTNP to open May 18

The lower loop of Yellowstone will open May 18, with access from the South and East entrances of Wyoming and allowing visitors to access Lake, Canyon, Norris, Old Faithful, West Thumb, and Grant Village. 

Wyoming has lifted out-of-state travel restrictions and has requested the state’s entrances open the week of May 18. Montana and Idaho continue to have out-of-state restrictions in place and the park is working closely with these states and counties to open the remaining three entrances as soon as possible. 

This limited opening approach will accomplish three objectives in the short term: 1) allow the park to continue buffering with states that are maintaining restrictions; 2) help the park and internal business partners improve and refine mitigation actions with lighter levels of visitation; and 3) allow for an assessment of how returning visitors affect COVID-19 curves within surrounding Wyoming counties. 

The park’s reopening priorities center on protecting employees and the public from transmission risks through a variety of mitigation actions consistent with local, state, and federal guidance. The park will actively monitor changing conditions (in the park and in surrounding counties); and will maintain flexibility to expand, adjust, or contract operations as conditions warrant. 

“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,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “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.” 

The park has developed a range of mitigation actions that include: providing protective barriers where needed, encouraging the use of masks or facial coverings in high-density areas, metering visitor access in certain locations, increasing cleaning frequency of facilities, adding signage on boardwalks and other public spaces, and messaging to visitors through a variety of methods. 

What will be open beginning May 18? 

  • Phase 1 will begin on Monday, May 18 at 12:00 p.m. with the opening of the South and East entrances in the state of Wyoming. 
  • Visitors will be able to access the lower loop of the Grand Loop Road (see attached map) coming in and out of the South and East entrances only. 
  • Visitors will be able to access restrooms, self-service gas stations, trails and boardwalks, and other Phase 1 facilities that are prepared to open. 

What will remain closed until later phases of the plan? 

  • The Montana entrances (North, West, and Northeast) will remain closed. The park is consulting with the Governor of Montana to establish reopening dates for the Montana entrances; a June 1 opening is being discussed.
  • Commercial tour buses will not be allowed in the early phases of opening. 
  • Overnight accommodations will be unavailable until later in the season. 
  • Campgrounds, backcountry permits, visitor cabins, additional stores, expanded tours, takeout food service, boating, fishing, and visitor centers will remain closed. These Phase 2 services and/or facilities will open when safe and appropriate mitigation measures are in place. This will happen at different times. 
  • Hotels, full-service dining, commercial tour buses, and ranger programs will remain closed. These Phase 3 services and/or facilities will reopen when health conditions allow. 

Visitors should come prepared and follow all CDC and local health guidance by practicing good hygiene and social distancing. Face coverings are recommended where social distancing is not possible. People who are sick should stay home and not visit the park. The CDC has provided specific guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities

“I’m asking the public to partner with us to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Sholly said. “Visitors can protect their family and friends by skipping areas that are too crowded and always maintaining social distance from other people, including rangers. The National Park Service can’t do this alone and will continue to work with all stakeholders to best protect the public and our employees.” 

Here’s a guide to the opening plan.

Beginning Monday, May 18, Grand Teton National Park will have recreational access with limited services available to the public, including; 

  • Primary road access (Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road and North Park Road) 
  • Public restrooms in some areas 
  • Day-use hiking on seasonally-accessible trails 
  • Riverbank and lakeshore fishing 
  • Multi-use pathway system (where free from snow)  
  • Several viewpoints continue to be accessible along US Highway 89/26/191  

With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed or services are unavailable at this time; 

  • Park visitor centers 
  • Overnight lodging  
  • Food service  
  • Boating/floating on river and lakes 
  • Marinas 
  • Backcountry permits 
  • Special-use permits 
  • Campgrounds  

“I appreciate the strong working relationship the park enjoys with our local and state partners,” said Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail. “Their input has helped inform the park’s phased reopening plan, which provides recreational access to the park in a manner that promotes the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, partners and visitors. We ask all park visitors to do their part to take preventive actions as they enjoy the park by maintaining social distancing and following all CDC and local health guidance.”

The park is implementing a number of preventive measures to reduce the spread of infectious disease, including prioritizing the hiring of seasonal custodial workers and increased contracted services for cleaning and disinfecting high use areas, and the use of plexiglass panels in locations of high visitor/public interaction such as entrance stations, visitor centers, and permit desks, and providing visitor guidance.    

This article originally appeared in the free Yellowstone Insider newsletter. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here!

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