Yellowstone, Grand Teton national parks closed at request of county health officers

Yellowstone National Park has closed because of concerns raised by the coronavirus epidemic. (Sherry Devlin/Missoula Current)

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks closed on Tuesday afternoon, at the request of county health officers in Montana and Wyoming concerned about the spread of coronavirus.

Health officers from Park and Gallatin counties in Montana and Park and Teton counties in Wyoming voiced their concerns as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to increase locally and worldwide. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon echoed those concerns.

Park officials responded Tuesday with the closure announcement, saying “the health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers and partners is our No. 1 priority.” The closure is indefinite.

“There will be no visitor access permitted to either park,” officials said. “State highways and/or roads that transcend park/state boundaries and facilities that support life safety and commerce will remain open. Both parks will cooperate on the implementation of the closures. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.”

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a written release. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”

The iconic parks joined Yosemite National Park in California and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado in shutting their gates. Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee will follow suit on Tuesday morning.

A number of other national parks have limited visitor services or closed campgrounds and high-volume hiking trails. Zion National Park in southern Utah, for example, closed its campgrounds on Monday and blocked off the final narrow portion of the popular trail to Angels Landing.

Glacier National Park remains open for winter recreation, but visitor services have been sharply curtailed. (Missoula Current)

Meanwhile, Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana remains open, albeit with its usual winter-dictated access limitations and with new restrictions on visitor services. The entrance stations are no longer staffed, and fees are not being charged.

In addition:

  • The Apgar Visitor Center and Bookstore are closed until further notice. Restrooms, potable water stations, and park information are still available at the visitor center plaza 24 hours a day.
  • In-person visitor information services have been temporarily suspended at the park. Park staff are available to answer phone calls and emails during regular business hours. For information and trip planning, visitors are encouraged to visit the park website at www.nps.gov/glac. If additional assistance is required, please contact e-mail us or 406-888-7800.

Officials in Grand Teton and Yellowstone also encouraged people to take advantage of various digital tools available to learn about Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Those include:

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Check with www.nps.gov/yell and www.nps.gov/grte for specific details about park operations.