Face Mask Rules Have Changed at National Parks. Here’s What You Need to Know
Individual parks will now determine whether or not to require masks—so you should check on the rules ahead of a visit.
The National Park Service updated its COVID-19 masking guidance this week, loosening rules implemented last summer that required all visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a face covering in buildings and crowded trails on public lands.
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Now, individual parks will determine whether or not to require masks—so you should check on the rules ahead of any planned trip. You will still need to wear a mask on any form of public transportation inside the parks; that means the shuttle system in Zion National Park, which resumes weekday service in mid-March, for example.
“Planning ahead has always been an important part of having a great park experience,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a press release. “As mask requirements evolve in parks, we want everyone to check the park website before heading out so that you know what to expect when you get there.”
The move comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled out new guidance based on data that can be found in this tool that tracks COVID-19 transmission rates at community levels. If a national park is located in an area identified by the CDC has having high rates, for instance, masks will be required in buildings.
“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,” NPS officials wrote in a release. “Visitors and employees are always welcome to wear a mask if it makes them more comfortable.”
Several national parks across the West are implementing reservation systems amid record-breaking visitation as more and more people flock to the outdoors for rest and respite. We’ve put together a few guides for otherworldly hidden gems, worthy of a visit in their own right, if you find yourself wanting to explore other environs outside the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the greater Zion area in Utah, and the high desert near Joshua Tree in California.