YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — A steady stream of cars, pickups and campers started the trek from Yellowstone National Park's east entrance to the park's southern loop at 10 a.m. on Monday.
Yellowstone, the nation's first national park, was also among the first in the National Park System to welcome visitors back following the COVID-19 shutdown.
For those making the drive, the east entrance is about 40 miles east of Cody, Wyo. Visiting Yellowstone today is pretty much a day trip. Although you can get to Old Faithful and Canyon, the only way out is to turn around and come back, or head south to Jackson Hole.
Yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, the lure of Yellowstone shines thru, bringing people from across the nation and the world to see one of America's greatest treasures.
If you're coming to Yellowstone, be prepared. Only the two Wyoming entrances are open, and no hotels or no restaurants.
Face coverings are advised for the park's high visitation areas, and there's a limit to the the number of people allowed in visitor centers. Public restrooms can be hard to find, but most are open, complete with hand sanitizers.
It's only half open - but even Yellowstone at 50% is well worth the trip.
The public will be asked to participate in enforcing the preventive measures. People will be asked to bring own face coverings and observe social distancing.
Grand Teton National Park will follow a similar opening plan to Yellowstone's.
What is open at Yellowstone National Park?
- 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.
- 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.