Grand Canyon National Park, which reopened for Memorial Day and then closed, reopened Friday as rangers put plans for the summer in place. The park’s hotels will soon follow.
The move comes amid many business and public-land reopenings in the West, despite pandemic cases and deaths.
The park, which was busy over Memorial Day, closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Beginning Friday, the park’s popular South Rim’s south entrance will be open from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, officials said in a statement.
Beginning June 5, that entrance will be open daily, all hours, and the South Rim’s Mather campground will be open for campers with reservations.
The park’s remote North Rim opens June 5 for day use. Its campground is expected to open July 1.
Beginning June 14, the park will phase in commercial and noncommercial Colorado River trips.
Xanterra, one of the park’s concessionaires, said Thursday that it would reopen Grand Canyon lodgings in steps: First, Maswik Lodge on June 5. Then, El Tovar Hotel and Kachina Lodge on June 10. Bright Angel Lodge and Thunderbird Lodge will follow on June 15.
Many park features will remain closed, including the east entrance on the South Rim, Desert View Watchtower area and Desert View campground. Rangers have compiled a list of openings and closures on the park’s website.
“We’ve been open for two four-day weekends and the idea was to assess how the weekends worked and what our operations will be going forward,” said park spokeswoman Lily Daniels.
The park closed April 1 as pandemic measures forced shuttering of businesses nationwide. In a statement Tuesday, officials said the park has had two confirmed coronavirus cases, reported April 24. Besides consulting with local and state health authorities, park officials said they are “coordinating with neighboring tribes and communities” on how to gradually reopen while minimizing risk to the approximately 2,500 park residents. The phased reopening began May 15.
The neighboring Navajo Nation, which has reported one of the highest pandemic infection rates in the U.S., had counted 4,689 cases of COVID-19, including 157 deaths, as of May 26. Navajo leaders have been imposing weekend “lockdowns,” closing all businesses to fight the spread of the virus on the reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
Arizona does not require face coverings. In the national park, Daniels said, “we highly recommend them, but we do not require them.”
On Navajo land, however, leaders require face coverings in public facilities and in places of business. U.S. Highway 89, often used by visitors to the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff, Ariz., runs through the Navajo Reservation.
Meanwhile across the West, other parks continue to gear up for more visitors. In Arizona, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area continues to increase access to Lake Powell. In Northern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park will boost recreational access beginning Friday.
Utah’s Zion National Park was open for the holiday weekend but had to shut down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because of parking shortages.