With 2021 filled with epidemic uncertainty and anxiety about everything inside the house, many travelers are definitely thinking hard about national park locations in the west this year. But there is also a lot of change and uncertainty outside.
If you’re looking for a park trip, here’s what to expect in the 17 parks in California, Arizona and Utah, with huge desert crowds, epidemics and staff shortages, a mile burn in Sequoia. Includes land. , A new reservation system at Kings Canyon and Lassen Volcano National Park, Arches National Park and the unresolved question of whether Yosemite will need advance reservations for summer day trips.
No matter which park you visit, these days travel means checking and re-checking the park’s websites and following the park’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts to keep up with late changes. It is also wise to continue with CDC travel advice, including getting vaccinated before you go anywhere and wearing a mask on planes, trains, buses and all other public transport.
Also, keep in mind that the National Park Service currently requires that everyone in its parks wear a mask, “regardless of vaccination status, in all NPS buildings, in crowded outdoor areas, and in closed public. In all forms of transportation. “
Santa Cruz Island’s Scorpion Anchorage is open for day trips, as is the hiking route to nearby campgrounds and Smuggler Cove. But just east of that route, 1,411 acres blackened by the 2020 Scorpion fire are closed for restoration until further notice.
Anacapa Island, usually a popular day trip destination for Park Concession Island Packers boats, will be closed for dock construction from mid-February to July.
The dock of Santa Barbara Island has been closed after two years of winter storm damage “and is not expected to be repaired in the near future.”
Valley of Death
The Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Tunes, Zabrisky Point and most other major landmarks are accessible as usual. Scotty’s Castle, badly damaged by floods in 2015, will reopen soon after April 2023. Thorndike and Mahogany Flat campgrounds are closed.
Rangers did not report any significant closures, all trails, campgrounds and visitor centers are open. But be prepared for company. The park temporarily reached 3.06 million visitors in 2021, the highest ever.
Together, Kings Canyon and Sequoia burned 78,675 acres in the KNP complex fire, including more than 1,000 large Sequoia trees. However, the Kings Canyon’s Grant Grove area is open, with sequoia groves and snow sports roads. However, due to 2 feet of snow on the ground in many places, all vehicles heading towards Grove have to be fitted with tire chains.
To reach Grant Grove, which includes the General Grant Tree, considered to be the second largest tree on earth, access the park through the entrance to Highway 180. Be sure to get a weather update before entering the park.
Release the volcano
Much of the park is usually covered with snow in winter, with roads closed. This year the snow has covered miles of ash. The Dixie fire of 2021 burned two-thirds of the southeastern part of the park – 73,240 acres. The fire, which lasted from July to October, destroyed or damaged 12 park structures, including seven cabins and two bungalow units on the north shore of Lake Juniper, the annex of the Drakesbad Guest Ranch and the water plan. The bridges over Mill Creek Falls were destroyed, and Kings Creek Falls was overlooked.
The park remains open, but in early January, no Ranger-led snowshoe hikes have been scheduled, and park visitor information is below the phone line, with no idea when it will happen again. Within a mile of the park’s entrance, winter access is limited to Lake Manzanita and the southwest. (Keep a tire chain in your car.) The 30-mile Park Highway is closed to traffic for winter / spring snow, and there are no food services or gasoline available in the park.
The park, generally one of the loneliest in the state, saw its popularity rise in 2021. The Rangers temporarily counted about 350,000 visitors – who came together in 2019 and 2020. The park’s east and west entrances are open, as are most of its parking lots and trails. Bare gulls and balcony caves have resumed normal scheduling. The Bare Gulch Reservoir Loop is accessible, as is the High Peak Trail for the Balcony Cliffs Loop. The park’s bookstore is open from Wednesday to Monday. But its shuttle service has been suspended until further notice.
Most operations continue as usual, but the Lost Man Creek Trail (and the Geneva Road Access Route that leads to it from Highway 101) has been closed since August for bridge repairs, and is expected to reopen in early 2022. .
There, too, is a lot of snow (and beneath it, a lot of scorched earth). The National Park Service reports that six miles from the park’s entrance to the Hospital Rock Picnic area, the main thoroughfare, the General Highway, is open, showing “a mosaic of charred and unharmed chapels and oak woodlands.” Also open: Amphitheater Point and Sunset Rock and Congress Trailheads. But by January 10, Hull was still working to clear access to the Giant Forest, General Sherman Tree and Wolverton area, where the snow could be 3 to 4 feet deep.
The section of General Highway connecting the Giant Forest was expected to reopen for daytime use on January 21. The section of highway that passes through Sequoia National Forest to connect Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks is not expected to reopen as soon as spring. . Some mountain areas and roads are still closed due to fire hazards at the KNP complex.
The big question, unanswered yet, is whether Yosemite will implement the summer day-to-day reservation requirement it used in 2020 and 2021 to reduce congestion and cope with the epidemic. That experiment has been praised for several quarters, but it also makes road tripping in Yosemite Valley impossible.
Park said it would not need reservations for the “firefall”, the period of February when the angle of the setting sun could illuminate Harstell Falls with a terrifying orange glow. (Provisional dates for this year are February 10-22.)
In either case, Glacier Point Road, a popular road leading to spectacular valley views, will be closed to all traffic (including hikers and cyclists) for 2022 due to repairs. A 30-minute delay is predicted in 2023 as work continues.
The Yosemite Valley Shuttle is running on a reduced schedule. The Badger Pass Ski Area is open until April 3, subject to conditions, and is expected to remain open until March with the same warning from Curry Village Ice Rink. The Ahwahani Hotel is doing business as usual, but is expected to close from January 2 to March 2, 2023 for seismic upgrades. Here are more updates on the park’s concessions, including restaurants and accommodations.
Yosemite Valley Campgrounds will be on their most regular events in 2022 (with a new lottery system for summer bookings at North Pines Campgrounds). In the north of the valley, many campgrounds closed in 2021 will reopen in 2022, including Tamrack Flats, White Wolf, Yosemite Creek and Porcupine Flats. Elsewhere in the park, many campgrounds are closed due to low level of staffing or rehabilitation work, including Crane Flat and Bridlewell Creek Campgrounds (both closed for 2022) and Tulumne Meadows Campground (all closed for 2022 and 2023). .
At this park, always the most famous in the country, it is usually mostly business. The south rim is open. Due to reopening from May 15 to October 15, most remote northern rims are closed as usual for the winter.
The park’s painted Desert Inn (now a museum, not a residence) is temporarily closed.
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The park set a 2021 attendance record, with a temporary number of 1.04 million visitors, up from a previous high of 1.02 million in 2019. Exhibitions, museums and theaters are closed in the park’s Rinkon Mountain and Red Hills visitor centers, and in both buildings. Limiting to 10 visitors at a time.
But the park’s long dilapidated condition is worrying. Kurt Rapanshek, founder and editor-in-chief of NationalParksTraveler.org, has listed Saguarro on his website’s latest list of endangered and endangered parks, noting that “the park’s signature cacti, and many other flowers And the species of animals that call Saguaru home. Many of the challenges – urban development, invasive species, and droughts and wildfires – are among the most pressing challenges posed by climate change. “
With a temporary number of 1.8 million visitors at the park’s entrance near Moab and frequent reports of traffic jams, the park set a 2021 attendance record. This year, Rangers will try to ease the crowds with a “temporary, pilot timed entry system”. Anyone coming from April 3 to October 3 will need to book in advance.
The park’s 18-mile main road is fully open, but rangers warn of occasional closures for icy patches and snow. Fairland and Paria View roads are open to pedestrians only. As is common in winter, the Wall Street side of the park’s Navajo Loop Trail is closed, as is the rim trail between Prerna and Bryce Point. The Pikabu Loop Connecting Trail is also closed due to dangerous winter conditions.
The park set an annual attendance record before the start of December. During the 11 months, the Rangers temporarily counted about 889,000 visitors, well above the previous high of about 739,000 in 2018. Most of the park’s roads are open, subject to normal winter conditions. The Schaefer Trail is closed due to dangerous snow and ice conditions.
Here, too, Rangers counted record attendance – over 1.4 million visitors, up from the previous high of 1.2 million in 2018 and 2019. The visitor center will open new exhibitions in February.
It is the busiest national park in Utah, and it is busier than ever, with a temporary number of 4.8 million visitors last year, higher than the previous peak of 4.5 million in 2017 and 2019. The park is connecting the restroom to the Human History Museum with the shuttle stop comfort station, to be completed by the end of March.
Meanwhile, the Upper Emerald Pool Trail has been closed indefinitely due to a rock fall, and rangers are warning visitors not to contact the water in North Creek or to drink stream water anywhere in the park as it produces toxic substances. Due to cyanobacteria. Tourists are also advised to swim in the northern fork of the Virgin River or avoid drowning for the same reason.