Yellowstone National Park Will No Longer Let Visitors Do This
Officials announced a major change that will take effect immediately.
As the oldest and one of the most expansive sites in the system, Yellowstone National Park is a top-priority destination for travelers looking to enjoy nature at its best. More than 4.8 million visitors made their way there in 2021, with July topping out as the most visited month in the park's history, according to the National Park Service (NPS). But even as outdoor enthusiasts and sightseers make their way in droves, the park is still contending with a few unique challenges. Now, officials have announced a major change for visitors that will take effect immediately. Read on to see what guests can no longer do in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is still recovering from a major natural disaster that just took place.
The 2022 high season started tragically for Yellowstone National Park as devastating floods brought on by record-breaking rainfall and increased snow melt due to warmer temperatures created what park officials called a "1,000-year event," per The New York Times. While evacuating more than 10,000 visitors, officials closed all five entrances to the park on June 13 as torrenting water washed out roads, destroyed bridges, and blocked routes with mudslides and debris.
However, the park was quickly able to recover and partially reopened on June 22. And while officials temporarily limited guest entry based on vehicle license plates, Yellowstone reopened its north loop on July 2, bringing back access to 93 percent of its total roadways and all but two of its major entrances.
Besides dealing with a catastrophic natural disaster, park officials also issued a warning on June 30 reminding guests that "bison are wild and unpredictable" after three visitors were hospitalized with injuries caused by the animals in a month. But now, officials have made a change that could affect your next trip to Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park is no longer letting guests do one thing.
On July 6, officials at Yellowstone National Park announced they were reviving a mandate requiring all visitors aged 2 years and older to wear a face mask in all indoor facilities as COVID-19 cases rise in the area, CBS News reports. According to the park's guidelines, this includes all park visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops, and restaurants.
Local COVID rates are high in the area in and around Yellowstone.
The NPS says masking policies in its parks are based on local conditions and the level of risk the virus poses, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The health agency calculates this by considering the number of hospital bed occupancy, the rate of hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area, per the CDC website.
While Yellowstone extends across five counties and three states, three counties are currently ranked as "high" on the CDC's community spread level, CBS News reports. This includes Wyoming's Teton County, which currently has the highest level of spread in the state, with an average of 443.2 new weekly cases per 100,000 people, 16.9 weekly hospital admissions per capita, and 3.2 percent of hospital beds filled with COVID patients, according to COVID Act Now as of July 7.
Other National Parks have indoor mask mandates in place right now.
Yellowstone isn't the only National Park to reintroduce a mask mandate recently. Of the 10 most-visited parks in 2021, four are currently located in "high" risk areas, including Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, and the Grand Canyon, CBS News reports. And across the U.S., the NPS requires riders to wear masks on public transit in all parks.
However, the NPS reminds guests that the decision to wear a face-covering is still available to guests in any of its parks. "In most low and medium COVID-19 community level areas, masks are optional, but visitors should follow signs and instructions from park staff and volunteers. Visitors and employees are always welcome to wear a mask if it makes them more comfortable," the agency writes on its website.