2020 is a year like no other because of the COVID 19 pandemic. The social distancing rules, lockdowns, quarantines, and fatalities from the disease are enough to stress to take the joy out of summer. The slowdown in international travel and the fact that many countries have halted international flights shrinks down the choices of what to do for leisure this summer.
However, you don’t have to feel this way because local tourism is still a hit, and the country is endowed with hundreds of attractions that you have probably not visited. You should take this opportunity to visit the local parks and attractions. You can even carry a few bikes and camping gear on your car’s roof rack for an awesome experience in the parks.
Here are the best national parks to visit during the COVID 19 pandemic.
What to Expect On Your Visit To The Parks
You will notice when you start looking for parks to visit because it’s no longer business as usual. The government, health professionals, and park management are working together to ensure that your visit to the park doesn’t expose you to the Coronavirus.
Here are a few measures to follow in the parks for your safety:
- Put on a face mask. Cloth masks are better than surgical ones because the cloth material has a higher capacity to absorb sweat as you stroll around.
- Maintain social distance and avoid crowding in certain areas of the park.
- Certain hiking trails and routes are off-limits. You should call the park you intend to visit ahead of time and check whether your itinerary places are open.
Now that you know what changes to expect in the parks, here are the seven places that you can visit with your family this summer.
Yellowstone National Park:
Yellowstone is the oldest park and one of the largest parks in the U.S. It’s also the world’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site with something for everyone. It tells an astounding story with its unique geologic and hydrothermal wonders.
The park is popular for its red-tinged canyon walls alongside magnificent natural wonders such as Mammoth Hot Springs, and Old Faithful. Other incredible must-visit sites include Yellowstone Lake, Morning Glory Pool, and Upper Falls.
Some of the things to look forward to including the stunning alpine rivers, dramatic canyons, gushing geysers, hot springs, and lush forests. The hiking trails are amazing and basins offer breathtaking views of the parks’ alpine lakes, forests, and waterfalls. Yellowstone is also home to many animal species including antelope, bison, wolves, bears, and elk.
There’s a lot to enjoy at Yellowstone and even a 3-day trip might not be enough.
Where is it Located?
Yellowstone is found in the western part of the U.S and covers three states Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. However, 96% of the park is in Wyoming, 3% is in Montana, and the remaining 1% in Idaho.
How to Get there?
To get to Yellowstone National Park, fly to the nearby airport and drive into the park using any of its five entrances:
North Entrance: Fly to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport next to Bozeman, Montana. Takes you about an hour’s drive to the park and gets you to Mammoth Hot Springs.
West Entrance: Fly to Yellowstone Airport next to West Yellowstone, Montana. The park is within a 10-minute drive and gets you to Geyser Paradise.
East Entrance: Yellowstone Regional Airport close to Cody, Wyoming is the closest airport. The park is within an hour’s drive and gets you to Yellowstone Lake.
South Entrance: Land at Jackson Hole Airport situated within Grand Teton National Park close and to the south of Yellowstone. AN hour drive gets you to the park.
What are the Entrance Fees?
Here are the entrance fees for Yellowstone National Park:
Single entry (ski, bike, foot, 16+ years old) – $ 20 for a 7-day pass.
Motorcycle, Snowmobile – $30 for a 7-day pass.
Private, non-commercial vehicles – $70 for a 7-day pass
An annual pass to the park – $70/vehicle.
Where to Stay?
You can book in the hotels inside and outside Yellowstone National Park.
- Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel & Cabins
- Old Faithful Inn
- Canyon Lodge and Cabins
- Lake Lodge Cabins
- Lake Yellowstone Hotel And Cottages
- Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins
- Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
- Roosevelt Lodge Cabins
Covid 19 Restrictions
You may be denied access to bike rentals in West Yellowstone, the holiday Inn Game Room, the Retail shop, and Front Desk in Gardiner and Roosevelt General Stores.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park closed down on 24th March due to the COVID Pandemic. However, the park’s administration started efforts to open it in mid-June partially. The reopening efforts are still underway, and currently, these areas are open for the public:
- The entrance to Sun Road is open; however, you can only access it from the West due to congestion. North Folk and especially roads to Kintla and Bowman Lake are open, but the Polebridge ranger station might close from time to time because of heavy traffic.
- If you plan to go biking, make prior arrangements because the bicycle sections are closed down at certain hours.
- If you want to go boating, only Lake McDonald is open this summer. Make sure that all your equipment is cleaned and sanitized before heading to the inspection post.
- The lodging facilities are still closed, and food service is on a takeout basis only.
You can also book a guided hiking trip or an advanced trail and backcountry camping expedition. The closest airport to Glacier National Park is the Glacier Park International Airport, which is located about 30 miles from the West Entrance to the Park. Other regional Airports include Missoula, Great Falls, and Calgary. Amtrak has a train service running from Chicago to Seattle, and it will drop you off at either East or West Glacier. You can stay in these hotels during your visit to Glacier:
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- The Many Glacier Hotel
- Sperry Chalet
- Granite Chalet
The Olympic National Park in Washington State:
The park was also closed due to COVID, but the first phase of reopening started in May. The main attractions in the National Park include:
- The Ruby Beach
- The Olympic National Forest and Wildlife
- Lake Crescent
- Hoh Rainforest
- Hurricane Ridge Mountain Area
Currently, the area around Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Road is open for recreation. Parts that aren’t open include overnight camps, restrooms, and the coast.
The lodges started reopening in June. The Hurricane Ridge area and Hoh rainforest are open, and the park rangers are available for queries. Ruby Beach and beaches 1-6 have also been opened, and you can enjoy some relaxing time at the Kalaloch lounge.
The closest airport to the Olympic National Park is the Seattle-TacomaInternational Airport. If you are traveling by road, the 1-5 corridor will get you to Olympic, unless you know the place well in which case you can use the quieter country roads.
The places to stay when visiting the Olympic include:
- Lake Crescent Lodge
- The Olympic Lodge
- The All View Motel
Acadia National Park in Maine
Some of the attractions which are open right now include:
- All hiking trails and carriage roads
- The Hulls Cove Center for Visitors
- Concessioner Gift Stores
- Wildwood Stables
- Jordan Pond House and Restaurant
You can fly into the Boston Logan Airport, and then get a connecting flight to the Bar Habor Airport in Hancock County., which is ten minutes away from the park.
These are the hotels to stay in:
- Hamptons Inn Bar Harbor
- Harbor Side Hotel, Spa and Marina
- Hutchins Cottages
Yosemite National Park in California
Yosemite National Park is California’s Gem. It’s located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and receives close to four million tourists annually. The main attractions at Yosemite include:
- El Capitan for those who love rock climbing
- Vernal Falls, which are 317 feet tall, and you can access through the John Muir Trail or the Mist Trails
- Mirror Lake and its view of the Tenaya Canyon
- The Cathedral Peak for those who love mountain climbing
The closest Airport to Yosemite National Park is the Fresno-Yosemite National Park. After landing, you will have to take one and a half hour’s drive to the airport. Other access routes include theSan Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport.
Some of the ideal places to stay when visiting Yosemite include:
- The Ahwahnee
- The Yosemite Valley Lodge
- The Curry Village
- The White Wolf Lodge
The Grand Canyon National Park
In case you have not been to the Grand Canyon, you might want to head to Arizona this summer. It’s arguably the most popular tourist attraction in the country, bringing in close to six million tourists yearly.
The top attractions that keep visitors coming back to the Canyon include:
- The South Rim
- The Bright Angel Trail
- The Grand Canyon Skywalk
- North Kaibab Trail
- The Havasu falls
To get to the Grand Canyon, you can fly either to Phoenix or Las Vegas. Besides this, you can head to Flagstaff city airport which is near the South Rim.
These are the hotels you can book yourself into:
- The El Tovar Hotel
- The Holiday Inn Express Suites
- The Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn
Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee
With over 12 million visitors annually, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the country’s most popular attractions.
Some of the top attractions here include:
- The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Clingmans Dome observation deck
- Laurel Falls
- Foothills Parkway
You will fly into the park through the McGhee Tyson Airport in Alcoa, south of Knoxville. You can also use the Asherville Airport to access the Cherokee entrance in North Carolina.
Here are a few hotels you can book yourself into:
- Creekwalk-Inn Bed and Breakfast
- Richmont Inn
- Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa
There are many fun things to do when in the local, national parks that will help cool off your mind from COVID19 stress. If you’re traveling, keep in mind that most parks have shut down the eateries and accommodation options because of the disease. When planning your trip, ensure you figure out if they have takeout meals, and come with accommodation options. An RV or camping gear will solve a lot of possible accommodation problems