Yellowstone Reopens for Limited Use; Backcountry Still Closed

Yellowstone National Park reopened for limited use on May 18, nearly two months after closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The south and east entrances in Wyoming opened as the first of a three-phase reopening. For now visitors are limited to traveling the lower loop of the park, with access to Lake, Canyon, Norris, Old Faithful, West Thumb, and Grant Village.

The park remains closed to backcountry camping, which includes the Continental Divide Trail through Yellowstone, and permits will not be issued during the first phase of the park reopening.

Grand Teton National Park, which borders Yellowstone to the south, also began a limited reopening on May 18. Backcountry permits are not being issued. An alternate CDT route goes through the park.

Wyoming has lifted out-of-state travel restrictions and requested that the Yellowstone entrances in the state open the week of May 18. Montana and Idaho continue to have out-of-state visitor restrictions in place and the park is working with them to open the remaining three entrances.

The park said the phased reopening allows it to maintain a buffer with states that still have restrictions, help the park and internal businesses refine mitigation actions, and assess how visitors affect COVID-19 infection rates in surrounding Wyoming counties.

“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,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said. “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 asks visitors to follow CDC and local health guidelines by practicing good hygiene and social distancing. Face coverings are recommended when social distancing is not possible.

As of May 18 restrooms, self-service gas stations, trails, and boardwalks are open in the lower loop.

Commercial tour buses are not allowed in the early phases of opening.

Overnight accommodations will not be available until later in the season.

Campgrounds, backcountry permits, visitor cabins, additional stores, expanded tours, takeout food service, boating, fishing, and visitors centers will remain closed until it is considered safe to reopen them.

Hotels, full-service dining, commercial tour buses, and ranger programs will remain closed. These services and facilities will reopen under phase three when health conditions allow.

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