Our beautiful national parks have always been great options to get away from others and enjoy the great outdoors. With social distancing a vacation theme, they’re more popular than ever in 2020. Due to a variety of factors, each national park in the U.S. is having to adjust differently to make sure visitors can safely enjoy the park.
In some states, including Hawaii and Maine, a 14-day quarantine is in effect for out-of-staters. In other areas, parks have a strictly enforced reservation system and are operating at limited capacity. Other parks are more flexible and are almost entirely open to the public but operating with reduced staff.
We wanted to share all the important travel information you should know before visiting any of our national parks.
Guidelines are subject to change, but we will keep the information updated. But, before taking a trip, it never hurts to check a park’s official webpage. We’ve provided links to each below.
Acadia National Park
A 14-day quarantine is in effect for all out-of-state visitors. If you are planning on visiting Maine, you’ll need to test negative for coronavirus 72 hours prior to arrival or complete a 14-day quarantine.
Most hiking trails, carriage roads, and Park Loop Road are open to the public at Acadia National Park. Campgrounds are closed at the moment, with no plan to reopen until August 1 at the very earliest. Park entrance passes are required to gain entry into the park. You can buy your ticket online.
Arches National Park
All roads, trails, and restrooms are open at Arches. Devils Garden Campground is open to the public as is the park’s bookstore.
Until further notice, the Arches Visitor Center and its info desk, exhibits, and the park film are closed. Park rangers will be available on the front patio of the visitor center to answer questions during regular business hours.
Badlands National Park
The entire South Unit of the park is closed per an ordinance from the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Most parts of the North Unit of Badlands are open. That includes roads, trails, overlooks (except Bigfoot Pass Overlook), campgrounds, cabins, as well as food and retail shops.
Big Bend National Park
As of the beginning of July, Big Bend is closed to the public. No entry will be allowed except for employees, residents, and authorized personnel.
Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park remains open but with limited services available at Boca Chita, Elliott, and Adams Keys. The visitor center is closed for the time being; access to the Convoy Point kayak launch and restrooms is available on a limited basis.
Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
Black Canyon is open to the public with the exception of the South Rim Visitor Center. Rangers will be outside the center, ready to provide permits and answer trip-related questions.
Campgrounds in the North Rim and East Portal are operating and sites are available. If you want to camp in the South Rim, it’s recommended to reserve your spot in advance.
Bryce Canyon National Park
All roads and trails should be accessible at Bryce Canyon. The Visitor Center and Natural History Association Bookstore are open as well but at limited capacity.
RVers might face restrictions as to where they can travel in the park. Due to a long list of places they can’t park, RVers should plan to park in the shuttle station and utilize the free shuttle.
The shuttle runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and can accommodate 20 people at a time. Shuttle riders will be provided a mask if they didn’t bring one.
Canyonlands National Park
All roads, trails, and restrooms are open at Canyonlands National Park. Campgrounds at Island in the Sky and the Needles are open as well, but visitor centers in those areas are not. If you need a ranger’s assistance, they should be on the front patio of the visitor centers during normal business hours.
If you have your eye on exploring backcountry or river views, you’ll need to obtain a permit online beforehand. Overnight permits must be requested five days in advance, whereas day-use permits must be obtained 24 hours in advance.
If you’re curious about the park, check out our list of everything to know before you go.
Capitol Reef National Park
All recreational activities at Capitol Reef are open to the public, with slight adjustments made to building occupancy. For example, the visitor center can only accommodate 20 people at a time, and the Gifford House only 12.
Backcountry camping and canyoneering routes are both accessible with appropriate permits.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
All out-of-state travelers are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after entering the state. If you want to travel to New Mexico, prepare for a 14-day period of mandatory quarantining before your adventures there may begin.
Due to the confined nature of the caverns at Carlsbad National Park, social distancing guidelines are more rigorous. Entrance tickets to the cavern are limited to 575 visitors per day on a first-come, first-serve basis. Tickets are available at the visitor center, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It’s suggested you arrive early since tickets often sell out within just a few hours.
All desert roads and park trails remain open. The iconic Bat Flight Amphitheater is open during the day but is closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Ranger-guided tours aren’t available right now.
The five islands within Channel Islands National Park are currently open for day and overnight visits. Boat transportation to the islands is operating at 40 percent capacity. Kayak tours on Santa Cruz Island are available as well. The mainland visitor center will be closed until further notice.
Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park has a phased reopening system in place. Campgrounds and the visitor center are closed, but most trails, roads, and restrooms are open to the public.
Several trails are currently closed due to flood damage, including the Bluff Trail and Boardwalk and Weston Lake Loop Trail.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are no limits on how many cars can enter the park at one time. All park roads and trails are open, minus Godfrey Glen Trail, which is closed for bridge maintenance.
The only closed locations in the park include the visitor center and park ranger programs. If you want a snack or gift while exploring the park, you can visit one of the many open retail shops.
Lodging and camping are available at a few sites.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Rangers and staff at Cuyahoga Valley are asking visitors to hike in a clockwise direction to reduce encounters with fellow hikers.
The park has a mix of open and closed facilities. The Boston Mill Visitor Center is closed, but outdoor information is available daily -- weather permitting.
All park roads, trailheads, and overlooks are currently open at Death Valley. Several major campgrounds are open, but keep in mind that both visitor centers will be closed. In order to enter the park, you’ll pay the entrance fee via an automated kiosk.
Note: Make sure to bring plenty of water and avoid hiking after 10 a.m. The area is experiencing extreme summer heat with temperatures well over 100 degrees.
Denali National Park And Preserve
Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Though the Denali National Park and Preserve Visitor Center isn’t open, park rangers are setting up outdoor spaces in front to answer guests’ questions -- offering maps, books, and other helpful tips. Restrooms will be available there, but the facility itself will be closed.
The Science and Learning Center, ranger-led programs, and sled dog kennels will be closed for the season. Fortunately, the Riley Creek Mercantile will be open daily for basics like firewood, spirits, bear spray, and other Alaskan trip essentials.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park is reopening in phases. Ranger-led programs and fort tours are not available right now, but most other amenities are.
The park offers access to campgrounds, marine waters, and harbors. Recreational water activities including boating and seaplane tours are back and running as well.
Everglades National Park
Commercial operations have resumed in the Everglades. Guided tours are available but at a limited capacity.
Visitor centers remain closed, but backcountry wilderness camping is available again, except for in North Nest Key. Permits are completed by self-registration outside the Gulf Coast and Flamingo Visitor Centers.
Gates Of The Arctic National Park And Preserve
Gates of the Arctic -- and various other parks in Alaska -- might be harder to reach than most places in the U.S.
The park’s website warns that air travel access to the park as well as its information center operations may be limited. Also, zero recreational access to the community of Anaktuvuk Pass will be allowed. Instead, you can access the park through the town of Bettles. Though direct flights from the Lower 48 to Bettles might not be available, you can fly from Fairbanks to Bettles.
Brooks Range Aviation has suspended its 2020 flight operations, making air access even more challenging. Before going, make sure to check for updates and research alternative airline options. Also note that Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Gateway Arch National Park
The Gateway Arch is in Phase I of its reopening. Currently, the tram to the top, documentary, and outdoor National Parks Service programming are suspended. The Old Courthouse is also closed.
Visitors are able to access the Arch Visitor Center, museum, shop, and cafe.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is open, but expect service to be limited. Various recreational activities like ranger programs, day boats, and kayak rentals and trips will be canceled until further notice. Online registration will be required for all campgrounds and backcountry permits.
The Visitor Information Station in the park will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily to answer questions and issue boater and camper permits. Keep in mind that Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Glacier National Park And Preserve
Glacier National Park and Preserve is mostly open from the west side of the park. Nonessential travel from the east side of the park -- where the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is located -- is prohibited, so plan to travel exclusively from the west side of the park.
It’s likely the park will be heavily congested, meaning parking might be limited and occasional access restrictions are possible.
Grand Canyon National Park
In order to access the Grand Canyon, you can go through the south entrance near the town of Tusayan, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or enter via the North Rim. The east entrance at Desert View is closed right now.
A detailed list of available lodging, visitor centers, food options, convenience shops, and stores can be found here, as well as an update on the current number of positive cases in the surrounding area.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park is open for the most part. Campgrounds and cabins have reopened, as have select takeaway food services.
Though exhibits and the auditorium in the park are closed right now, some indoor services are available, including the visitor center, ranger station, and permit desks where you can obtain backcountry and boat access.
Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park is reopening in phases. Cave tours are unavailable at this time, so the Lehman Cave Visitor Center is closed as well.
For the most part, campgrounds, restrooms, trails, cafes, and park roads will all be open, minus a few campgrounds, such as Wheeler Peak Campground.
Great Sand Dunes National Park And Preserve
Great Sand Dunes is open, and you can stay overnight in the Loop 1 and 2 campgrounds. No reservations should be needed.
Keep in mind that the line to get into the park can be up to two hours long. No bathrooms are available on the route into the park, so plan ahead.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
North Carolina, Tennessee
Park managers at the Great Smoky Mountains set up an Adaptive Operations Plan containing five phases, each of which includes a two-week assessment phase before moving to the next.
Since this incredible stretch of land makes up the most visited park in the U.S., park procedures and guidelines are ever-changing. Detailed updates on facilities and access can be found here.
Various roads, trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, visitor centers, and concession operations are open at any given time, but specific accessible locations can change on a day to day basis.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Though Guadalupe Mountains National Park has a phased approach to reopening, the park is still in its early stages. Most trails and all camping are off-limits for the time being.
Right now, Devil’s Hall Trail, Guadalupe Peak Trail, Smith Springs Trail, and Frijole Ranch Area are open to visitors. The Ranch House at Frijole Ranch Area will remain closed.
Haleakala National Park
Until September 1 at the earliest, Hawaii has a 14-day quarantine rule in place.
Hours at Haleakala National Park are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. unless you purchase a sunrise reservation. These reservations offer access to the Summit District from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. They must be purchased in advance here. Trails in the Kipahulu District of the park are open for public exploration, as are trails in the Summit District of the park.
All wilderness areas in the park, including Crater hiking trails, cabins, and tent campgrounds will for the most part be closed to the public. Visitor centers will remain closed as well. Permits are suspended for the time being.
Prepare your trip in advance by deciding how you’ll adhere to Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine rules. If you want to make the most out of your trip to the park, consider our pro tips on how to spend a day there, from sunrise to sunset.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
All trans-Pacific travelers will face a 14-day quarantine, so plan accordingly before planning a trek to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Most areas in the park are open to the public except the Kilauea Visitor Center and Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube). Ranger-guided programs aren’t currently running, so all adventures will be self-guided.
Apart from those restrictions, the majority of the park is accessible, including backcountry camping (with a permit), cabins, roads, trails, campgrounds, and shops in the park.
Hot Springs National Park
Trails, roads, and thermal and cold water fountains are open at Hot Springs National Park. Campgrounds, bathrooms, day-use areas, and concession services (with limited staff) are all available to the public as well.
Park headquarters and Fordyce Bathhouse and Museum remain closed.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park is almost entirely open to the public. Access to the shoreline and nearby hiking trails is available on all beaches except for Lake View Beach and Picnic Area and Central Avenue Beach.
Isle Royale National Park
Access to Isle Royale National Park is somewhat limited. Rock Harbor Marina Docks, Windigo Finger Docks, and Siskiwit Bay Dock will be closed for the entire season. Ferry transportation and lodge service will be closed for the season as well. In order to reach the park, you’ll need to reserve a ride with Isle Royale Seaplanes or use a private watercraft.
Visitor centers will be open at limited capacity as are select trails, docks, and campgrounds.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is nearly completely accessible. All basic features of the park are open, including park entrances, entrance booths, roads, parking lots, trailheads, visitor centers, bookstores, information desks, and most bathroom facilities.
The only true closures, for the time being, are the park ranger programs and all museum and exhibit portions of the park. Unlike some other parks, all campsites are first-come, first-serve -- that is, you’re not able to book ahead of time online.
Joshua Tree has some gorgeous hikes, and the best hikes in the park deserve your consideration.
Katmai National Park And Preserve
All access to Brooks Camp Developed Area at Katmai has been significantly scaled back. Current operations involve limited capacity at the visitor center, picnic area, and various platforms.
In order to ensure visitors don’t exceed capacity in certain areas of the park, staff will organize waitlists to ensure social distancing guidelines are upheld. In addition to park-specific restrictions, Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park offers limited visitor services but some park areas and facilities will remain open for operation. The gate, parking, restrooms, and trails at Exit Glacier will be open to the public. The campground there is closed for the time being, as are cabins in the area.
To help answer guest questions, a Dial-A-Ranger customer service program allows visitors to call rangers but only in areas with phone service. Other general information will be on display on information boards. Keep in mind that Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Kobuk Valley National Park
The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kobuk Valley is closed as of mid-March to protect staff and visitors alike.
Lake Clark National Park
This park is open, but the visitor center and administrative office in nearby Port Alsworth is closed to the public, as is the Richard L. Proenneke Historic Cabin. If you need to make a call while you’re in the park, staff are still working and can respond to your inquiries. Note: Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Though ranger programs aren’t currently available at Lassen Volcanic National Park, a ranger is available daily, given you stand six feet away and wear a mask. Information is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week outside both visitor centers.
Keep in mind that several parking lots in the park fill up quickly, and popular trails such as Bumpass Hell Trail can be excessively busy.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park has a phased reopening plan. Though most park services -- picnic areas, restroom facilities, trash collection, and ranger stations -- are available, they have limited staff.
Most roads, trailheads, and overlook points are open, but be prepared for the museum and visitor center to remain closed. Check out closed trails in advance.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park has a combination of open and closed facilities. Though guidelines are subject to change based on case numbers, for now, most trailheads are open.
Park visitor centers will remain closed until further notice, but you can look for rangers at information stations near visitor centers if you need assistance.
Campgrounds are opening in stages due to limited park staff. If you’re camping in the park’s backcountry, you’ll need to acquire a wilderness permit in advance. Though face coverings aren’t required, they’re suggested for the safety of fellow hikers.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park has a handful of open services. As of mid-June, all visitor centers and group campsites are closed to the public, but that doesn’t mean overnight stays are off-limits.
In fact, you can still stay at campgrounds and backcountry campsites. The Wilderness Information Center will remain open, as will the Stehekin marina and public docks.
Olympic National Park
Wilderness Information Centers are closed for the remainder of 2020 in Olympic National Park. That means you’ll need to obtain a Wilderness Camping Permit ahead of time in order to be able to stay overnight in the park’s backcountry. You can obtain a permit here. Campground availability is published online.
Petrified Forest National Park
There’s no overnight camping at Petrified Forest National Park right now. Permits for backpacking and camping in the wilderness will not be issued, either.
You can still hike to your heart’s content during the day, but because of a federally-mandated road construction project, you should expect delays in construction zones.
Pinnacles National Park
Due to the confined nature of some areas of Pinnacles National Park, trails like Bear Gulch Caves, the Balconies Caves, and the Moses Spring Trail to the Reservoir will remain closed for the time being. That leaves plenty of trails open for exploring, though!
The west entrance, also called the Soledad side, is open to vehicular traffic until the parking lots are full. The east entrance -- the Hollister side -- is open to visitors until they reach the visitor center. Visitor centers will remain closed until further notice and all entry fees are waived.
Note: Summer temperatures can go above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so plan ahead, bring water, and try to hike earlier in the day.
Redwood National Park
All indoor spaces at Redwood National Park are closed, but visitor information services, Junior Ranger badge programs, and restrooms remain open. All trails and scenic drives are open.
If you’re planning to camp in backcountry areas, you’ll need a permit beforehand.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park has more strict guidelines to adhere to than most. In order to gain entry to the park, you’ll need to reserve a timed entry permit. Reservations can be made online and must be purchased in advance.
In addition to your timed entry permit, you’ll have to retrieve an entrance pass from one of the staffed park entrance stations. Once you’re through the reservation process, check out our comprehensive list of the best hikes in the park.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro offers access to all roads, picnic areas, and hiking trails. Crowding near trailheads is likely, so it’s advised to keep your distance from fellow hikers and start your hike early to beat the crowds -- and the heat!
Visitor centers are closed for the time being, but visitor information and access to restrooms is available from 8 a.m. to noon daily.
Sequoia And Kings Canyon National Park
There’s plenty to explore at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, including scenic roads, trails in developed areas, overnight wilderness access (by reservation only), picnic areas, gift shops, and restaurants.
Visitor centers, bookstores, ranger stations, and wilderness permit stations are currently closed. You can check here for a list of available campgrounds.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park has reopened access to most places in the park. The entire park is open 24 hours a day. Backcountry is open for overnight camping. Campgrounds are open at full capacity and reservations can be made online.
As of now, the only closed sites include amenities at the Byrd Visitor Center, as well as Massanutten Lodge and Rapidan Camp historic structures.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is, for the most part, open. Trails at the North Unit and South Unit are open, as well as picnic areas and scenic drives.
Two out of three visitor centers (South Unit and Painted Canyon) are open with limited services, but the North Unit Visitor Center and nearby campgrounds are not.
Voyageurs National Park
If you visit Voyageurs National Park right now, you will have access to the Kettle Falls rental villas, recreational equipment rental in the Kettle Falls area, the Trading Post sales outlet, and ferry service to the ethereal Kettle Falls itself. Hotel rooms at Kettle Falls Hotel are closed through 2020.
White Sands National Park
The dunes, trails, visitor center, and gift shop, picnic areas, and restrooms are open at White Sands National Park.
Unfortunately, permits for backcountry camping, early-open, stay-late activities, and commercial photography aren’t available right now. Also, keep in mind that all out-of-state travelers are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after entering the state. If you want to travel to New Mexico, prepare for a 14-day period of mandatory quarantining before your adventures there may begin.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is regarded as the largest park in the U.S. Because of its sheer size, the guidelines for the park are unique. The park hosts 13 million acres of outdoor space and fresh air, so visitors have plenty of room to spread out safely and avoid other people.
Visitors should still expect limited services and closures, though. Current updates on park conditions can be found here. Also: Alaska has guidelines in place for all out-of-state travelers. Before entering the state, you need to fill out the following form (PDF).
Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park offers 30 miles of hiking trails, wildlife viewing opportunities, and scenic drives. Loops A and B are open to the public, but Loops C and D are not. The visitor center and cave tours have been put on hold for the time being.
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming, Idaho, Montana
Because of the sensational crowds at Yellowstone National Park, expect delays, traffic, and spontaneous closures.
Cabin-style accommodations and select campgrounds are the only shelters that will be available for the season. Service stations, general stores, gift shops, and take-out dining will remain open, too.
To stay up to date on guidelines, open trails, and other key travel information, check out this detailed list of what facilities are currently open and closed.
Yosemite National Park
Since Yosemite is one of the most well-known and visited parks in the U.S., it’s no surprise their guidelines are more clearly defined.
The park has implemented a temporary day-use reservation system. In order to enter the park, you’ll need to pay the entrance fee and have some form of reservation set up in advance. That can be in the form of a campground, lodge, or vacation rental reservation, Yosemite permit, commercial use authorization, or, most likely, a day-use reservation.
A day-use reservation is per car, regardless of how many people are in it. This is the best way to visit the park for a day. Reservations sell out quickly, so plan ahead and reserve now.
Zion National Park
Popular areas in Zion National Park such as Kolob Canyons Area, Scenic Drive, and the visitor center are all closed to through traffic and visitors for the time being.
To streamline the visitation process, Zion has two shuttle lines. The first shuttle is in the park and requires a ticket in advance. The shuttle takes you through some of the more gorgeous areas of the park, ending where shuttlers depart for the Narrows. The other is in the town of Springdale. It stops at various locations in town and drops you off at the park’s pedestrian/bike entrance.
Though we’re all itching to travel again, it’s important to do so safely. If you’re unsure if you should travel, consider the CDC’s official guide to visiting parks.