COVID-19 has turned the world upside for many Americans across the nation in the last few weeks. And with the end still in the distant future, many families are looking for ways to get back some of their freedom and a sense of normalcy while still staying safe and healthy during this trying time.
For many who are local to Southern Utah, a visit to Zion National Park has been just the answer.
Crowds have descended on the park in the last few days. Because of that, park officials have pushed additional closures and urged the public to continue to practice healthy social-distancing during their visit.
If you’re eager to get out of your home and to enjoy some fresh air, keep reading first. We’re bringing you the information you need to know about what’s open, as well as advice for staying safe and healthy.
Ongoing Closures in the Park
Last week, Zion suspended shuttle operations, including both the inner-park loop and the Springdale loop. This change was made in response to cities and states across the country asking that the public avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. With shuttle buses bringing tourists in close proximity to one another, closing the shuttle system was necessary.
In addition to halting the shuttles, officials also quickly closed Zion Lodge, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the Zion Human History Museum, and the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. This meant that the gift shops closed and park films are temporarily unavailable. All ranger programs were also canceled for the foreseeable future.
At the time that these closures were made, Zion’s campgrounds remained open. However, effective today at noon, those are set to close as well.
On Tuesday, March 24, park officials made the difficult decision to close the trail to Angels Landing. The closure starts at Scout Lookout through the end of the trail. Because of the popularity of this trail and its narrow width, the move was made to keep hikers from getting too close. The West Rim Trail does remain open at this time. As do all other hiking trails not currently closed for other reasons, like damage to the trails. Trails that were closed prior to the spread of COVID-19 because of damage and repairs include Hidden Canyon Trail, Weeping Rock Trail, Lower Emerald Pools Trail, and Observation Point Trail.
Planning a Smart Visit to Zion at this Time
With plenty of wide-open space and miles of trails to enjoy, it is possible to enjoy a safe visit to Zion at this time. You’ll just need to get a little creative with the spots you choose to visit.
Because so many visitors are making their way to Zion, popular trailheads in the lower canyon may be crowded. For this reason, it’s best to head to some of the park’s more scenic trails and destinations. Kolob Canyons tends to be less busy than the rest of the park, and is full of incredible trails and overlooks. There are also other trails that many visitors in the park never see. Check out this list of some of the best lesser-known trails that are perfect to enjoy at this time.
Besides heading to less-busy areas of the park, it’s also important to plan ahead for facilities to be closed. If you need a map or park information, it’s best to print these out at home or download them onto your smartphone so that you can see them even if you don’t have cell service. Some park information is available outside of the visitor centers. But keep in mind that these areas may also be crowded.
Rangers are still patrolling the parks, but for your safety and theirs, it’s best to limit contact as much as possible. You’ll still need to follow all park rules at this time, including only parking in designated areas.
If you do want to visit the lower canyon, try to plan your visit very early in the day. Late afternoon or early evening, when the crowds have thinned, is better as well.
Staying Healthy in the Parks
Sticking to less-busy parts of the park and visiting early or late in the day can help you limit your contact with other visitors. But there are other healthy tips you need to practice during your visit to keep yourself, your family, and other hikers safe.
To start, you should be practicing social-distancing throughout the park, including on trails. This means keeping 6 feet of space between you and others. Wash your hands as often as you can with soap and water. Because this may be tough in the park, pack hand sanitizer to use when you eat, use the restroom, or touch any surfaces that see a lot of traffic.
Unless you’ve just washed your hands with soap and water, avoid touching your face. When you need to cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover it. Otherwise, use your elbow to cover your mouth and nose. Wash your hands after doing either.
The most important rule to follow at this time is to stay home if you believe that you could be sick. This should always be true when visiting the park, regardless of the type of illness.
Zion National Park During COVID-19
At this time, Zion National Park does remain open to visitors. In fact, entrance into the park is even free at this time.
If you can’t make it to Zion now, why not spend your time at home planning a summer visit instead?