Parts of South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park Phased Reopening

Grand Canyon National Park South Entrance Recent Phase

Arizona travel writer Stacey Wittig sits near Kaibab Trail with her back to the camera. She wears backpack and wide-brimmed cowboy hat
UNSTOPPABLE Stacey on South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park in June 2017. Hiking trails will not be open May 15-18, 2020.

This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the website of Grand Canyon National Park.

UPDATE  6/20/20–Officials at Grand Canyon National Park continue to increase access to the park. As of today, South Rim’s South Entrance is now open 24 hours/day. The East Entrance to the park at Desert View, and the Desert View Watchtower area remains CLOSED because of COVID-19 concerns.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is temporarily CLOSED until further notice because of the wildfire burning north of the park.

Some visitor services and overnight accommodations are available at the South Rim. Check before you come.

NOTE: South Rim shuttle buses are not in operation.

UPDATE 5/28/20 — Beginning May 29, 2020, the Grand Canyon National Park South Rim’s south entrance will be open every day from 4 a.m. until 2 pm for day use w/ limited commercial services. Park officials announced in a press release today that the entrance will close at 2 p.m. and visitors already inside the park can remain for day use access until sunset.

The announcement says the following areas will be open:

  • Tuweep will be open for day use access.
  • Day hiking on inner canyon trails and existing backcountry permits for hikers camping overnight will be honored.
  • No new overnight camping permits for the inner canyon will be issued.

Beginning June 5, 2020, the following areas will be open for visitors every day:

  • South Rim’s south entrance will be open 24/7, and
  • Mather Campground will open for existing reservations only.
  • The North Rim will be open for day use. The campground is closed for construction until July 1.

UPDATE 5/26/20 — Grand Canyon National Park will be closed Tuesday, May 26; Wednesday, May 27; and Thursday, May 28, 2020.
All visitor facilities, trails, and roads including Highway 64 will be closed during these three days. This coming weekend, there may again be limited South Rim access and operating hours. Details to be announced Tuesday or Wednesday.

5/13/20 — After COVID-19 shutdowns, Grand Canyon National Park reopens selected South Rim viewpoints on May 15-18. Only one park entrance will be open at 6 am, and it closes four hours later at 10 am.  The sole South Rim South Entrance reopens just in time for the weekend, but with short windows of access hours.

Park officials announced in a press release today that they were increasing recreational access to selected South Rim viewpoints while following guidance from:

  • the White House,
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and
  • state and local public health authorities.

“This initial reopening phase will increase access to our public lands in a responsible way by offering the main feature of the park for the public, the view of the canyon, while reducing the potential exposure of COVID-19 to our nearly 2,500 residents,” said Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Ed Keable in the news release. Read on to learn what the initial reopening phase will look like if you plan to visit.

Viewpoints Accessible During the Initial Reopening Phase May 15-18

While limestone formation in the shape of a duck sits atop edge of Grand Canyon South Rim
The natural limestone formation called "Duck on a Rock" at the Grand Canyon viewpoint of the same name | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

So then, during day time hours of Friday, May 15, through Monday, May 18, visitors will have day use access to these viewpoints:

  • Pipe Creek Vista,
  • Shoshone Point,
  • Twin Overlooks,
  • Duck on a Rock,
  • Thor’s Hammer,
  • No Name Point and
  • Navajo Point along East Desert View Drive.

Vehicles will be directed to turn around at Navajo Point. However, there will be picnic areas available during this “soft opening.”

Picnic Areas Accessible During First Phase Opening

The Grand Canyon South Rim picnic areas that are accessible during the first phase of opening  are:

  • Shoshone Point Pavilion, east of Yaki Road,
  • Thor’s Hammer and
  • Buggeln Picnic area.
Restaurants and all other commercial services within the park remain closed. Visitors exploring the South Rim should plan to be self-sufficient, bringing enough food, water and hand sanitizer for the duration of their trip. So then, what about bathroom availabilities?

Restrooms Open During May 15-18 Grand Canyon "Soft Opening"

The restroom located by the South Entrance Grand Canyon National Park sign is one of only three restrooms open May 15-18 | Photo taken in 2011 by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

The only restrooms open during  the May 15-18 Grand Canyon “Soft Opening” are:

  • The restroom facilities located by the South Entrance Grand Canyon National Park sign,
  • the restrooms at the picnic area east of Yaki Road, Shoshone Point and
  • the restrooms at Buggeln Picnic area.

List of Closed Facilities and Areas at Grand Canyon National Park

Park officials said that with public health in mind, the following facilities and areas remain closed to visitors at this time:
  • South Rim’s east entrance and Desert View area.
  • The Rim Trail, Greenway Trail system, inner canyon and all hiking trails.
  • Grand Canyon Village.
  • Center Road west from the South Entrance Road intersection; South Entrance Road north of Desert View Drive intersection; Yaki Point Road, Rowe Well Road and the USFS 310 Road.
  • The Colorado River, North Rim and Tuweep area.
Commercial services within the park remain closed. Visitors exploring the South Rim should plan to be self-sufficient, bringing enough food and water during their trip as well as hand sanitizer. 

What to Expect When Grand Canyon National Park Reopens

looking into the Grand Canyon from a South Rim viewpoint at sunset
South Rim viewpoint during sunset | UNSTOPPABLE Stacey photo

What should visitors expect when the Grand Canyon National Park reopens May 15 – 18?

  1. No restaurants or commercial services will be open. Pack picnic lunches, snacks, water and hand sanitizer.
  2. Bring sunscreen, hats, and scarves for sun protection. High temperature this weekend will be in the mid to high 70s (F). If you are staying for sunset, pack jackets and something warm as temperatures will dip during the night to the mid 30s (F).
  3. Arrive no later than 9-9:30 a.m. in case of traffic backups entering the park. The entrance opens at 6 am and closes at 10 am. Once visitors enter the park, they can stay throughout the day.
  4. No overnight accommodations are available inside the park. That includes campsites and hotel rooms.
  5. Hiking trails are not open. Stick to the viewpoints and picnic areas listed above. 
  6. Over Memorial Day weekend, additional access is planned for visitors. Those plans include extended entrance station hours and access to more roads, hiking trails and viewpoints. Details will be provided when they’re available on the Grand Canyon National Park website.

Show Our New NP Superintendent Our Good Manners

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Ed Keable | NPS photo

During this soft opening of Grand Canyon National Park, let’s show our new Park Superintendent, Ed Keable, our good manners. Social distance by avoiding crowding, be courteous to park rangers, practice Leave No Trace principles and, please, don’t steal the toilet paper. Let our actions prove to our park officials that it is save to continue increasing access to our national parks.

Keable was appointed to the position of Park Superintendent on April 3, 2020.

Check out this pictorial driving tour to take a “virtual Grand Canyon tour”: Grand Canyon Tour – Insiders Secrets: A Self-guided Pictorial Driving Tour.

About Grand Canyon National Park | In 2019, Grand Canyon National Park welcomed almost six million visitors from across the country and the world. One of our most beloved national treasures, the park encompasses 1.2 million acres and is one of the most visited National Parks

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As is common in the travel industry, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the Arizona travel writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

In addition, this blog, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey Travel, contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, Stacey earns a commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help reduce the costs of keeping this travel blog active.

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