National Parks Open Right Now: What to Do in All 63 US National Parks – Thrillist Australia

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National Parks Open Right Now: What to Do in All 63 US National Parks - Thrillist Australia

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You are reading: National Parks Open Right Now: What to Do in All 63 US National Parks – Thrillist Australia

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Editor’s note: Between COVID concerns and park closures both seasonal and weather-based, the status of each of these parks can change overnight. We strongly recommend checking-then double checking-each park to ensure you’re traveling safely to a place you can actually access. We’ll continue to intermittently update this list throughout the winter. Winter is traditionally the quietest time at the national parks-and some would say the best. Most are open during this time of peak solitude, though there are many restrictions and closures to consider. As we ease into 2021, who hasn’t changed. Just look at California, where parks continue to teeter between day-use and all-access as COVID restrictions evolve.  

We’ve been keeping track of the status of all 63 parks all year, offering up a baseline of what’s open, whether you can camp, and what you can do inside. This list is current as of February 2, 2021, and includes the newest park, New River Gorge. Use it as a guide before you go-then double and voyagele check your park’s status online before you head out. It’d be a shame if you had to turn back because the bears woke up early. 

Acadia National Park

Maine
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Yes
Arcadia’s trails and roads are open, but the park is also in the midst of a long winter’s nap. This time of year is about as socially distant as you can get in Maine’s natural wonderland. Just keep an eye on closures related to storms, which can view roads close with short notice. For current info, check in with rangers at the Bar Harbor chamber of commerce. 

 

Arches National Park

Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
It’s largely business as usual at Arches, and winter is a time to visit with relative peace and quiet. It’s also probably the best time of year to stargaze and watch what the park’s Dark Sky designation is all about, so dress warm, look out for ice-related trail closures, and get ready for a light show.  

 

Badlands National Park

South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
The South Unit of the park is currently closed, but the rest of this badass South Dakota icon and its rugged geologic beauty is mostly open for business as usual. Be sure to stop off for ice water at Wall Drug while you’re here: Now who all the Smash Mouth fans have gone home, you’ll likely find smaller crowds at the scheduled T-rex show. 

 

Big Bend National Park

Texas

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

Day-use hikes, RV parking, and backcountry camping are available at this Texas paradise and roadtripper magnet along the Rio Grande. Limited lodging is available too, so stake your claim: It gets deceptively cold here at night. 

 

Biscayne National Park

Florida

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

Most of Biscayne is underwater anyway. You can feel pretty ok with paddling around this overlooked gem of a park with minimal risk, provided you pay attention to (and actually respect) the weather. 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Colorado

Status: Open

Camping: Limited

Amenities: Limited

Much of this highly underrated western Colorado treasure located about two hours north of Telluride is off limits to vehicles in the winter, including the North Rim and East Portal Roads, plus much of the South Rim. Plan ahead, and maybe have a backup plan.

 

Bryce Canyon National Park

Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Bryce Canyon vitally looks like Mars after an ice storm during the winter, in case you’re looking to reenact key scenes from Total Recall. Expect seasonal trail closures, but also expect to see more stars-and maybe even Mars, actually-than you’ve ever witnessed with the naked eye. 

 

Canyonlands National Park

Utah

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

This oft-overlooked Utah gem (the least visited of Utah’s famous “big five” parks) is stretching is back and going strong: You can now hit up the winding roads and endless trails of Canyonlands, then bed down at campsites or in the backcountry, provided you have a permit and some serious thermals.

 

Capitol Reef National Park

Utah

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

This International Dark Sky Park combines the best of Utah’s more famous national parks into one lesser-visited package of surprises. And it’s fully open for all activities, including camping, canyoneering, and loitering in the visitor centers.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No
Carlsbad’s open, sure, but this is also who magical time of year when snow and ice can result in full-blown closures. Currently, they’re allowing 1,000 people to go into the cave on a timed basis. 

 

Channel Islands National Park

California

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: No

This breathtaking collection of islands is back in business, much to the chagrin of the rare birds who had the run of it when only private boats were shuttling visitors to the middle of the Pacific to experience the US’s answer to the Galapagos.  

 

Congaree National Park

South Carolina

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Limited

The nation’s oldest hardwood bottomland didn’t keep its 500-year-old Cypruses alive through multiple plagues, yellow fever, and the Twilight saga by taking chances. The park opened slowly, and now most of it’s in play: That means you can hike in most of the park, canoe and fish, and camp if you scored a spot. 

 

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No
Snowshoeing around the blue waters of America’s deepest lake is one of those bucket-list activities that too few people experience. Maybe this is your year. If it is, “prepare to be self-sufficient,” as the NPS site says. You won’t have access to any amenities, the North Entrance and Rim Road are closed, and other roads experience intermittent closures due to snow. 

 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ohio
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited
A peak Midwestern leaf-peeping destination, Ohio’s expansive 33,000-acre treasure is open, but some of its more stunning attractions are still off limits, including the Brandywine Falls boardwalk. Station Road Bridge, too, is closed by means of March for maintenance purposes.

Read more: 40 Epic Ideas for What to Do on a Road Trip With Friends — What’s Danny Doing?

Death Valley National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Winter is the best time to visit America’s hottest national park, but just to keep you guessing, watch out for backcountry road closures due to ice at higher elevations.  

 

Denali National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Those looking to bask in stunning views of the wild landscapes surrounding North America’s tallest peak are free to do so, and some campsites are currently open, in case you’re particularly hardcore. Which, if you’re even contemplating an overnight voyage to Denali right now, you probably are. 

 

Dry Tortugas National Park

Florida
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Seaplane tours, ferries, campgrounds, marine waters, and the gardens outside of one of America’s largest 19th-century forts are open. And you’re now welcome to enjoy sunrises and sunsets on Loggerhead Key. Basically, there’s more open than closed at this point. 

 

Everglades National Park

Florida

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

Much of the Everglades is currently open. Feel free to camp, kayak, book a tour, canoe, clean fish, get gas, and poop with wild abandon in Everglades’ many public restrooms. But steer clear of Shark Valley, which is currently closed due to flooding. 

 

Gates of the Arctic National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
While America’s most remote and least-visited national park remains open for the most part, the hard part is getting there-especially in the winter. There are no roads to the park and most visitors access this massive wilderness (roughly the size of Switzerland) by plane. This place required a lot of planning to visit in the beforetimes. If you’re really committed, you already allotted time to jump via hoops to plan a safe stay.

Gateway Arch National Park

Missouri

Status: Open

Camping: No

Amenities: Yes

The Arch is smack in the middle of St. Louis, and grounds around the architectural icon have been accessible to socially distanced walks and biking all along. Now, the visitor center, museum, cafe, and store are open now, and you can take the tram to the top. The Old Courthouse is still closed, and you can’t camp. Ever. Because, again, it’s in the middle of St. Louis. 

 

Glacier National Park

Montana
Status: Open
Camping: Limited
Amenities: Yes
Considered by many to be America’s most beautiful park, this mountainous wonderland/UNESCO World Heritage site is taking very vehiculareful considerations to keep the local Blackfeet community safe from transmission. In addition keep a close eye on road closures, as Montana’s weather can shift unexpectedly and often, and many pathways are closed for the season.

 

Glacier Bay National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
Look, if you’re hiking around the glacial wilderness of Alaska, you’re already pretty socially distant. And if you do happen to see some other folks traipsing through one of the best glacier hikes in America, we’re pretty sure you’ll be able to abide a six-foot buffer zone.

 

Grand Canyon National Park

Arizona

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

You know what’s great? The South Rim of the Grand Canyon. That’s good news… because the East Entrance and North Rim are currently closed.

 

Grand Teton National Park

Wyoming

Status: Open

Camping: No

Amenities: Limited

Campsites and most amenities are closed for the winter, but if you’re a snowshoer, cross-country skier, snowboarder, or snowmobiler, there is perhaps no better place to be in the lower 49 this winter… especially if you can score a limited spot in a lodge. 

Great Basin National Park

Nevada
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
Great Basin and many of its amenities are open for hikers and explorers (no cave tours though), and now that several campsites are open, its legendary stargazing-some of the best in the US, period-is back in full swing. 

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado

Status: Open

Camping: Limited

Amenities: Yes

This high-alpine sandboarding paradise is back in the swing of things, with trails open and dunes ready to be tumbled down. Of note, the Piñon Flats campground is currently closed. For the backcountry set, you can score permits at the visitor center, which is also now back up and running. 

 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

North Carolina, Tennessee

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

The nation’s most popular park (on a technicality, but whatever) allows access to most of its sprawling trails, though this has always been a park most utilized as a scenic drive, so go forth and peep those leafs, but keep an eye on their site for closures. If you’re looking to stay overnight, several campgrounds are now open, though the majority are still on lockdown.

 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Texas
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
The home of Texas’ four highest mountain peaks and the world’s most expensive Permian fossil reef has re-opened campsites, along with many trails and roads. You can also hit up the Frijole Ranch area. Just be mindful of winter storms and keep an eye out for closures. 

 

Haleakalā National Park

Hawaii
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited
Maui’s massive, ethereal treasure is letting visitors trickle in to hike its stunning overlook trails-all the way up to 10,023 feet in elevation. If you make it up who high, social distance shouldn’t be a problem.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

This ancient, mind-boggling wonder is for the most part open to bikers, hikers, equestrians, campers, and looky-loos. The Kīlauea Crater is back in business, too, as are galleries and Volcano House, in case you need a cocktail with your view.  

 

Hot Springs National Park

Arkansas
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Hot Springs’ status as an urban national park means that a lot of the cafes and restaurants in its orbit are currently open, along with trails and outdoor zones. You can now camp and hit up the bath houses that contain the namesake hot springs. Spas and salons are open too, in case camping isn’t camping until you get a blowout.

 

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana

Status: Open

Camping: No

Amenities: Limited

While one of America’s newest national parks remains open “for the most part,” it did have issues with crowd control in the age of COVID. Being the dead of winter on a Great Lake has probably mitigated these issues. 

 

Isle Royale National Park

Michigan
Status: Closed
This remote island in the middle of Lake Superior is closed by means of April 15 due to being a remote island in the middle of effing Lake Superior. 

 

Joshua Tree National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
This gloriously voyagepy desert playground has reopened its campgrounds on a first come, first served basis. But fair warning: this is the busiest time of year at the popular park, so the in-roads often look like LA’s 405.

Katmai National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Limited
Amenities: Limited
Katmai’s more a park for animals than people-seriously, view these bears just yukking it up-and has less than 5 miles of maintained trails. If you’re headed into the wild backcountry, chances are you’re pretty well equipped to survive without visitors centers, running water, or, you know, other people. 

 

Kenai Fjords National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
This sprawling land whereby 40 glaciers dot the landscape and green contrasts with the white snow has opened up its public spaces, though don’t expect to get inside any buildings. Also, given it’s winter in Alaska, road closures can happen at any time due to sudden floods, ice flow, and general Alaska-ness. 

 

Kings Canyon National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No
This criminally under-explored park wedged between Yosemite and Joshua Tree is open to day use, but San Joaquin Valley’s stay at home orders mean who you’ll have to be gone come sundown until at least February 9.

 

Kobuk Valley National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No
You are free to roam the dunes and traipse through the river among the many, many caribou in this Alaskan wilderness, provided you don’t want to stop in the main visitor center after you’re via. 

 

Lake Clark National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
Lake Clark only reachable by boat and air taxi. If you’re planning to go, expect to abide by rigid quarantine rules beforehand. That said, if you’re visiting this place, chances are you didn’t just kind of wander out for a scenic drive in the woodens, so you probably already know this. And if you didn’t, well, you probably didn’t know Lake Clark was a place to begin with. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: Limited
Amenities: Yes
This remarkable park in Northern California’s Shasta Cascades has shut down the majority of its roads, and backcountry camping is off limits… not because of COVID restrictions, but because of  increased bear activity. Winter road closures are also in effect. If you’re looking to explore just a small portion of this overlooked marvel-and extremely, maybe you should-prepare to rough it. 

 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Kentucky
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
The surface world’s been open all along, but now folks can resume descending into the world’s longest underground cave. Camping is also now an option, though not inside the cave itself, which horror films tell us is a very bad idea. 

 

Mesa Verde National Park

Colorado
Status: Open
Camping: Limited
Amenities: Yes
America’s substantialst archeological preserve (and top Colorado attraction) has been around since 7,500 BC, and is more or less in full swing at this point, though you still can’t tour the cliff-dwellings. Otherwise, go nuts, and feel free to stay, either in a tent or the lodge. 

 

Mount Rainier National Park

Washington

Status: Open

Camping: Backcountry only

Amenities: Yes

Park lands in one of America’s oldest national parks are  pen at this point, though campsites are now closed for the season (backcountry campers are still cool/kind of hardcore). But you can book a room at the National Park Inn, which is a pretty great place to hunker down while the mountain starts collecting snow in the most visually spectacular way. Just be sure to pack tire chains. 

 

National Park of American Samoa

American Samoa
Status: Open
Camping: No (camping’s never an option here)
Amenities: No
The bad news: If you’re a mainlander planning to visit this isolated paradise renowned for its snorkeling, beaches, night sky, and solitude, you have to quarantine in Hawaii for 14 days. The good news is, if you’re a mainlander planing to visit this isolated paradise renowned for its snorkeling, beaches, night sky, and solitude, you have to quarantine in Hawaii for 14 days. And if you’re already on American Samoa, bad news is probably pretty relative, largely because you’ve been going to the park all along.

 

Read more: Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

New River Gorge National Park

Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
As America wound down a chaotic 2020, one good thing managed to go relatively unnoticed: West Virginia’s New River Gorge officially became our 63rd national park. And as of now, the park-all 70,000 acres of it-is open, if pretty damn cold. Feel free to camp, hike, climb, and explore the eerily beautiful abandoned mining towns scattered throughout.

 

North Cascades National Park

Washington
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Why people continue to overlook this spectacular expanse of glorious nature porn near the Canadian border continues to befuddle experts. Currently, heavy snowfall means that many roads and trails are closed for the season, so this is probably best reserved for the most witnessed explorers.

Olympic National Park

Washington
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
With mountains, beaches, and rainforests, this ridiculously diverse park needs to be seen at least once by every American. At this point, winter closures mean visiting requires some extra planning, but if you play your cards right you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself. In addition to seasonal closures, some areas remain closed-off out of consideration to the residents of the Makah and Quileute reservations. (That extends to nearby La Push, in case you were here to reenact pivotal scenes from Twilight.) 

 

Petrified Forest National Park

Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No
The park road, trails, and very hard wilderness areas are now open at this stunning park that suddenly pops up along both sides of Route 66 in eastern Arizona. Even if you’re just on an epic old-school road trip, you should make it a point to cruise through.

 

Pinnacles National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
The site for this Central California park boasts about it being “Born of Fire,” and now that the wildfires have subsided, it’s been reborn again. Sleep under the stars, gawk at the rock formations, and find out what you’ve been missing.

 

Redwood National Park

California

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Limited

Redwood has spent the last year yo-yoing between various states of closure due to COVID restrictions, billowing smoke from wildfires, and other maladies. It’s currently operating like its former Pete Seeger-baiting self. Just make sure to check in before you plan a visit, and cross your fingers that 2021 is a lot more reliably normal in this magnificent park.

 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado

Status: Open

Camping: Limited

Amenities: Limited

Much of America’s third most-popular was ravaged by fires this fall, but the healing has begun. Sections will remain closed, and some of the wintry paradise is off limits for the season, including most of the campsites. Use caution and be respectful of the recovery process if you choose to visit.

Saguaro National Park

Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Located right outside of Tucson, this cacti-laden gem is currently allowing campers, though groups are limited to 10, which gives you a good excuse not to invite that one friend who always insists on bringing his fucking acoustic guitar.

  

Sequoia National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No
Like its neighbor Kings Canyon, the densely forested Sequoia is open for day usage only to slow the spread of COVID. 

 

Shenandoah National Park

Virginia
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No
Renowned for its fabled Skyline Drive, this national treasure encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is largely shut down for the season. Still a hell of a drive though!

 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

North Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
Look, it’s not like they named this ultra-underrated park James Buchanan National Park. This is named after the Bull Moose, a place where the prairies and the Badlands converge, forests stand petrified, buffalo roam, and the sky’s one big panoramic light show. Welcome to winter camping season. Don’t expect a lot of company.  

 

Virgin Islands National Park

US Virgin Islands
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Yes
Things are pretty much back to normal. If you’re here, go forth and enjoy some of the world’s most pristine beaches. As of late October, you can once again take advantage of rental sites and food-service at Trunk Bay.

 

Voyageurs National Park

Minnesota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Yes
Known for its rugged waters and wild landscapes that make it a paradise for kayakers and canoeists, this park near the Canadian border is so underrated it doesn’t even make underrated parks lists. It’s also very, very cold. Unless you’re into snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling, it’s likely to remain underrated until northern Minnesota thaws. 

 

White Sands National Park

New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited
Transitioning from a national monument to a national park in the final days of 2019, White Sands park was forced to shut down just a few weeks later, and was among the last to reopen. But hey, it’s open now! No, you can’t camp or hang out inside. Yes, you can rent a sled and go rocketing down the dunes. Seems like a fair tradeoff.

Wind Cave National Park

South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No
Wind Cave is like the national park equivalent of some ultra-hype speakeasy: a massive cave system hidden beneath the prairie. And like a hyped-up speakeasy, you probably can’t get in. At this point, the cave tours are a bust. You can now camp, and wander the trails of the prairie aboveground, but honestly, you can already do that in the majority of South Dakota without being sad that the good stuff’s all under your boots.

 

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Alaska
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No
Ok, so technically the substantialst national park-all 13.2 million central Alaskan acres of it-has been open for most of the pandemic, though mostly to folks working to preserve the park. Now, it’s open to Alaskans and quarantine completionists, who can camp in sites or in the backcountry and even access the park’s remarkably preserved ghost town, which has been practicing extreme social distancing for a century. 

 

Yellowstone National Park

Montana, Wyoming, Idaho
Status: Open (kind of)
Camping: Backcountry only
Amenities: Limited
The majority of Yellowstone’s roads are closed by means of April 16, with the exception of the North Entrance through to Cooke City. Amenities are extremely limited for those who opt to visit. For all but the most committed backcountry explorer, Yellowstone’s hibernating along with the bears. 

 

Yosemite National Park

California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited
The good news is that Yosemite is largely back to normal. The bad news is that normal in the winter means road closures. Lots of them. Check here before you set your heart on seeing Mariposa Grove, the Mist Trail, and Half Dome.

 

Zion National Park

Utah

Status: Open

Camping: Yes

Amenities: Yes

One of America’s most beloved parks has eased back into public life, with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and many park trails currently open, though shuttles are off limits until mid-February. 

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Jay Gentile is an award-winning freelance journalist uniqueizing in travel, food & drink, culture, events and entertainment stories. In addition to Thrillist, you can find his work in The Washington PostThe GuardianCNN TravelChicago TribuneLonely PlanetVICEOutside Magazine and more. Follow @thejaygentile.

Andy Kryza is Thrillist’s senior travel editor. 

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