5 Things To Know About Olympic and Mount Rainier Travel Amid COVID-19

Here's everything you need to know about the national parks reopening.
Publish date:
National park ranger wearing a face mask and gloves to protect from COVID-19

In light of the spread of COVID-19, trying to find out what is open and closed in our national parks is a moving target these days. The National Park Service is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local public health authorities and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make its decisions on what to keep open or to close on a daily basis.

How to Be an Informed and Mindful Traveler

While the national parks reopening have made us cautiously optimistic about summer travel, we’ve identified 5 essential factors you should consider before you hit the road. And one last thing. Throw your propensity to assume out the window. As we’ve seen during this spring, there are no guarantees that businesses will stay open, virus cases will go down or stay-at-home orders will be a thing of the past.

1. Every state has its own rules that vary dramatically.

Each state has different quarantine orders that vary dramatically from state to state. Within states, orders can even vary from county to county or town to town. For instance, on the Olympic Peninsula, the Quileute Tribe has closed the Quileute Reservation to the general public until further notice. The Makah Tribe closed the Shi Shi Beach Trailhead to the general public until further notice. There will be no access to Shi Shi Beach from the north.

2. Not everything in the park will be open.

Just because a national park reopens does not mean everything within the park is open. For instance, not all Olympic's hotels have opening dates. Tours and rentals in Olympic will most likely will not open. And the park may not open its full-service restaurants other than takeout menus. Be sure to check each park website to ensure that the services you need are available. Lastly, avoiding crowds and practicing Leave No Trace principles in the park are more essential now than ever with reduced park staff. We’ve teamed up with organizations and brands across the outdoor industry to help you make smart decisions on recreating to keep yourself and others healthy and to keep access to our beloved public places open. You can read more about how to #RecreateResponsibly

3. Every town and local business is operating differently in this new normal.

Do advance research on what hotels and restaurants are open and what they are doing to keep customers and employees safe. Some restaurants may only offer take out. Others might have a long waiting list because they have fewer tables to keep people physically distanced. Some rafting companies may not offer trips this summer while others may be doing business as usual, with added safety measures. If you have a choice between local businesses and a national chain, consider supporting the local business.

4. Be mindful that you’re a visitor in someone’s hometown.

While you may feel footloose and fancy free after being cooped up for two months, don’t throw caution to the wind. Yes, wearing masks is awkward. No, you cannot throw yours out. People live in the towns you’re traveling through and they want to feel safe as they open up their economies. Many have tiny medical centers and are miles from the nearest full-service hospital. If a store posts a sign asking all customers to wear face masks, put on your face mask. Be the traveler you’d want to see visiting your town.

5. If you’re sick, stay home.

We’ve all done too much work staying at home and following health and safety precautions to have a COVID-19 resurgence take foot in our country. No one wants to get sick, so if you’re not feeling well or have signs of COVID-19, stay at home or if you’re on the road, head home immediately. Travel when you’re healthy.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is doing a phased reopening of the park. The Lake Crescent area is open for day use recreation. This includes the Barnes Point area with access to the Marymere Falls and Moments in Time trailheads and the Storm King boat launch. Bovee’s Meadow, La Poel and East Beach picnic areas are also accessible. The Spruce Railroad Trail is under construction and closed until the project is complete in fall 2020.

On May 15, Sol Duc Road opened to vehicles for day-use recreation. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, RV & Campground remain closed. The Hart O' the Forest trail in the Heart O' the Hills area will also be accessible for day use with parking at the amphitheater. The coastal area closures include all parking areas, trails, beaches, and facilities at Kalaloch, Mora, and Ozette.

The following park roads are closed: Staircase Road; Hurricane Ridge Road above the Heart O' the Hills entrance station; Ozette Road; Mora Road; Upper Hoh Road; Lower and Upper Queets roads; and North Shore (residential traffic only), North Fork, and Graves Creek roads in the Quinault Valley. The Olympic Hot Springs Road and Whiskey Bend Road in the Elwha Valley are closed to vehicles at the Madison Falls parking area due to the washout of Olympic Hot Springs Road. Deer Park, Obstruction Point, and Hurricane Hill roads have not opened for the season and remain closed at this time.All overnight camping, including in wilderness, is currently suspended. All drive-in park campgrounds are closed including: Staircase, Heart O’ the Hills, Ozette, Mora, Hoh, Kalaloch, Queets, North Fork, and Graves Creek. Deer Park, Fairholme, Sol Duc, and South Beach have not opened for the season and remain closed at this time. With this closure, it is important to remember that no other areas in the park are authorized for camping.To make changes to or cancel existing wilderness permit reservations affected by this closure, please contact the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100 (Option 4) or email Olym_WIC@nps.gov.Public facilities including visitor centers, contact stations, and most restrooms remain closed. Kalaloch Lodge, Creekside Restaurant and The Mercantile closed March 23. The tentative date for reopening is May 29, at the earliest. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Campground and RV Park and Lake Crescent Lodge have delayed opening until May 29 at the earliest. Log Cabin Resort has delayed opening until June 12, at the earliest.

The Quileute Tribe has closed the Quileute Reservation to the general public until further notice. The Third Beach Trailhead is outside of this closure and remains open. If you have made a reservation for Second Beach and would like to make changes or cancel it, please contact the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100 (Option 4) or email using the form at https://www.nps.gov/olym/contacts.htm.

The Makah Tribe closed the Shi Shi Beach Trailhead to the general public until further notice. There will be no access to Shi Shi Beach from the north. For more information on the closure, please visit the website for the Makah Tribe (https://makah.com/). If you have made a reservation for Shi Shi Beach and would like to make changes or cancel it, please contact the Wilderness Information Center at 360-565-3100 (Option 4) or email using the form at https://www.nps.gov/olym/contacts.htm.

Self-registration boxes may be empty. Stop at WIC in Port Angeles or South Shore Quinault Ranger Station to obtain a Wilderness Camping Permit and bear canisters.Ozette Ranger Station does NOT issue permits or bear canisters.

Visitors can call the information line at (360) 565-3130 with general park questions or email the park on the popup form at www.nps.gov/olym/contacts.htm. Wilderness Information Center staff are available by phone at (360)565-3100 for questions about backpacking permits and reservations. Current road, campground, and weather information is also available by calling the park’s recorded line at (360) 565-3131, which is updated daily.

For information and updates on park lodges and restaurants, please check the website for Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Sol Duc Hot Springs RV & Campground, Lake Crescent Lodge and Log Cabin Resort at www.olympicnationalparks.com/alerts/2020/covid-19-guest-updates as well as Kalaloch Lodge at www.thekalalochlodge.com/covid-19-updates.

For up-to-date information on Olympic National Park, visit www.nps.gov/olym/learn/news/index.htm

For campground alerts, reservations and more for Mora, Kalaloch Sol Duc Hot Springs campgrounds, go to www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2881

Follow Olympic National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OlympicNPS/

Olympic National Forest

The Olympic National Forest has temporarily closed all developed recreation sites.

Recreation closures include trailheads, day use areas, campsites, cabins and picnic sites. Reservations cannot be made at this time. Existing reservation holders will be notified via email and/or cell phone text messages, if there are any changes affecting their reservation. Refunds will be issued for cancelled reservations.

The latest updates and information can be found online at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/olympic/home. Forest Service offices are currently providing virtual services and staff are available to answer questions by phone or email, during business hours which can be found here.

Mount Rainier National Park

The park remains open to foot and winter recreation via backcountry access points. Park roads, parking areas and trailheads (including the Nisqually Entrance, Paradise and Longmire areas) remain closed to private vehicles. 

Park roads are closed to vehicle access including cars, buses, & motorcycles. While currently closed to motorized vehicles, park roads (except for the Nisqually Road to Paradise) are open to non-motorized vehicles like bicycles unless snow plowing or otherwise posted. , including hiking, skiing, snowmobiles, and bicycling.

Nisqually Entrance/Road is also closed to pedestrian traffic on the road. Pedestrians may enter the park as long as they travel on the road shoulder out of the lane of traffic. Road shoulder is narrow so please walk single file and use caution.

Park visitor centers and the National Park Inn and gift shop are closed, as are restrooms. Access to the Carbon River area remains closed due to the washout of the Fairfax Forest Reserve Road.

The park backcountry is accessible for dispersed recreation such as hiking and winter recreation. Winter recreation at the northeast (SR410) and southeast (SR123) park boundary closures including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Once snow clearing on begins, winter recreation access on roads will cease. Self-register for wilderness permits at these park entrances. Recreation high camps (10,500 feet) are open - Camp Muir and Camp Schurman. Dispersed recreation at Carbon River is open. Self-register for wilderness permits at the Carbon River Ranger Station. NOTE: Fairfax Forest Reserve Road E. remains closed at the Forest Service Road 7810 Bridge outside of the park just before the Carbon River Entrance. Park at your own risk before the closure.

Learn more updates here at www.nps.gov/mora/learn/news/

Follow @MountRainierNPS on Twitter (twitter.com/MountRainierNPS) for winter access updates.

For Cougar Rock Campground, Cougar Rock Group Campground, Ohanapecosh Campground and Ohanapecosh Group Campground alerts, reservations and more for campgrounds, go to www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2835

Follow Mount Rainier National Park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MountRainierNPS/

Other National Park Sites

The National Park Service has been updating its COVID-19 page daily with information about individual parks. You can visit it here: www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/public-health-update.htm

Updates about nationwide NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Related Stories

National Park Service to Temporarily Suspend Park Entrance Fees: www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/national-park-service-to-temporarily-suspend-park-entrance-fees.htm

National Park Service Is Modifying Operations to Implement Latest Health Guidance www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/statmentonparkopscovid19.htm