The National Parks Are Closed... Now What?
The closure of all U.S. National Parks after Tuesday's government shutdown has alienated a lot of travelers, hikers and campers. In most parks, campers were expected to vacate the grounds within 48 hours and many incoming visitors continue to be turned away. Even though the closing of each park’s major areas is a huge downer for vacationers, it doesn’t necessarily mean your trip is ruined.
The good news is that some parts of the most-visited national parks are still accessible. While it may not sound like the full-on adventure that a wide-eyed explorer was hoping for, below are some options that can help you make the most of what, given the circumstances, turned out to be an untimely vacation.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Visitors to North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains should stil be able to find plenty to do, even with the park closed. Scenic Newfound Gap Road (US 441), which passes through the park, is still open for fall foliage viewing. Of course, there are also plenty of other scenic byways nearby, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Cherohala Skyway and “The Dragon” (NC 28). All of these roads have hiking trails along their routes, as well as national forest campgrounds. Other activities in the area include kayaking, fishing, road biking, mountain biking, ziplining and rafting.
Grand Canyon National Park
While all Grand Canyon National Park trails, roads, campgrounds and hotels will be cleared, rangers won't be able to vacate all of the park’s 12 million acres. According to Grand Canyon News, campers already in the backcountry and rafters who've already embarked on trips down the Colorado River can continue their excursions without interruption. If you're reading this, though, we suppose you're probably not in the backcountry. You can still get a gander at the Big Ditch from Highway 64 (aka "East Rim Drive"), which remains open because it's a state thru-road (just don't plan to use any visitor facilities in the park, since they'll be closed).
Yosemite National Park
The national park shutdown may have put the biggest damper on Yosemite National Park, whose 123rd birthday was yesterday. No doubt the closure is a huge bummer for California travelers, but at least day visitors are still permitted to enter the park. Yosemite’s entrances will remain open but guests will be instructed not to use any of the park’s facilities. Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman noted that “the roads leading to Glacier Point and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias along Highway 41 are closed.” On the semi-bright side, he also mentioned that some of the park’s concessionaire businesses, such as the Yosemite Village Store and Curry Village Gift and Grocery, will remain open for a limited time.
Yellowstone National Park
Wyoming travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of Yellowstone National Park are being turned away. According to Reuters, new visitors are not being granted entry and existing campers have been asked to leave. While the famed park is dissapointingly inaccessible, other area attractions that are just a short drive away from Yellowstone include Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Lake, the old west Victorian gold mining town of Virginia City, Montana, and Big Springs and Island Park in Idaho.