Arches National Park

[Moab Sun News file photo]

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks will open its trails and roads to visitors again on May 29 after two months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Southeast Group of Parks were closed on March 27, after Moab officials and the Southeast Utah Health Department urged National Parks Service officials to shutter the tourist-heavy areas to stop the spread of coronavirus in the area.

Details of updated park policies and precautionary measures were not immediately available; the Moab Sun News is working to clarify how parks will maintain physical distancing and other public health measures. 

A May 11 press release from the Southeast Utah Group of Parks, which manages the two national parks as well as Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments, said the parks are "working with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and we are using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis."

On May 29, visitors will be able to access park roads, trails and bathrooms. Visitor centers and campgrounds will remain closed. No backcountry camping will be permitted at Arches National Park; backcountry permits for Canyonlands National Park will be available May 30. The Fiery Furnace, a permitted area of Arches, will remain closed. 

Previously, the NPS announced that Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments would allow visitors beginning on May 14. Campgrounds and visitor centers at both monuments remain closed. 

"The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount," the NPS statement on the national parks opening read, asserting that park leadership will ensuring that "visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health."

"While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and some services may be limited," the NPS statement noted. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. Check our main page at www.moabsunnews.com for the latest.