National Park Service shares safety tips as Yellowstone reopens

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Ah, there’s nothing like the great outdoors.

Yellowstone National Park will reopen its Wyoming entrances on Monday in the first phase of its careful reopening, but visitors will have to heed some new guidance in the fight against COVID-19, the National Park Service (NPS) said.

The iconic park has been closed to the public since March 24 amid the coronavirus crisis, and will once again welcome the public in select areas of its 2.2 million acreage starting next week.

Ahead of the reopening, an NPS spokesperson told Fox News that protecting the health and safety of visitors, volunteers, partners and employees remains "paramount." The park service will follow public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor changing conditions in the reopened areas. Moving forward, the NPS may expand, adjust, or contract operations if necessary, they added.

The spokesperson also shared the following safety tips for visitors to keep in mind while visiting national parks as the coronavirus crisis continues:

  • Know before you go. Before heading out, check out the NPS’ Find a Park website to review current park conditions, restroom availability and more. Prepare a plan, and follow the 10 essentials. And if you’re feeling sick? Stay home.
  • Keep it close. Respect state and local ordinances regarding the open status of the site you’re visiting. The NPS is working closely with both government and health authorities to gradually expand access and services through the National Park System. 
  • Keep your distance. When venturing into the great outdoors, keep recreation to members of your household. Provide others with plenty of room in accordance with CDC social distancing guidelines of six feet, and cover your nose and mouth if safe social distancing is not possible.
  • Know your limits. Save that difficult hike or new outdoor activity for a future date, in the event of injury or accident. This will help first responders, parks and communities continue to focus on pandemic response.
  • Keep it with you. Brought something in? It’s your responsibility to take it out. Trash pickup and restrooms will continue to be limited through many NPS sites; as always, follow the “leave no trace” rule.

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Starting at noon on Monday, the park service will reopen South and East entrances in Wyoming, allowing public access to the lower portion of the Grand Loop Road. From there, tourists can access and enjoy Yellowstone Lake, Canyon, Norris, Old Faithful, West Thumb and Grant Village.

Visitors must enter and exit through the South and East entrances, and can use the restrooms, self-service gas stations, trails and boardwalks that are preparing to reopen, the NPS said.

Most of Yellowstone is in Wyoming, as small portions overlap in Montana and Idaho. The reopening, however, is complicated by the fact that about 70 percent of the park’s traffic passes through three gates in Montana, the Associated Press reports. Though Wyoming has lifted its 14-day self-quarantine orders for out-of-state visitors on nonessential business, restrictions remain in Montana and Idaho.

Yellowstone National Park will reopen its Wyoming entrances on Monday in the first phase of its careful reopening

Yellowstone National Park will reopen its Wyoming entrances on Monday in the first phase of its careful reopening (iStock)

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With that being said, Yellowstone is in talks with these neighboring states and counties “to open the remaining three entrances as soon as possible,” the news release said.

The limited Phase 1 reopening of the popular national park bans overnight accommodations (until later in the season) while campgrounds, backcountry permits, visitor cabins, expanded tours, takeout food service, additional stores, boating, fishing, and visitor centers will remain closed for the time being, the NPS said.

“I’m asking the public to partner with us to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Superintendent Sholly said of the reopening. “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 NPS can’t do this alone and will continue to work with all stakeholders to best protect the public and our employees.”

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Yellowstone attracts about 4 million visitors each year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.