New guidelines implemented at Utah state parks to address high visitation

Cars crowd the Sand Dunes parking lot at Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, March 28, 2020 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Following an announcement made last week by Gov. Gary Herbert, most of Utah’s 44 state parks were opened to all visitors, with some limitations in areas where local health orders are in place.

After a very busy weekend at some Utah state parks — especially those in the St. George area — the Utah State Parks has received many questions regarding long wait times and visitor capacity. As a result, they have now implemented some temporary guidelines to address the public’s concerns.

“We’re committed to maintaining the health and wellness of our staff and visitors. After last weekend, it’s evident that a few changes are necessary to increase safety and social distancing at our busiest parks,” Jeff Rasmussen, director of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, said in a news release. “We all play a role in keeping each other safe and healthy. We hope these changes contribute to a better visitor experience, and we ask those coming to state parks to do their part and practice responsible recreation.”

To help keep state parks operating efficiently while continuing to promote adequate social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah State Parks will be undergoing some temporary operational changes.

First, visitor capacity at popular parks will be reduced and will now be determined by the number of developed parking spaces available inside the park. State parks will partner with local law enforcement and the Utah Highway Patrol to enforce highway parking restrictions at select parks in Southern Utah.

Primitive camping will be closed or reduced at high traffic parks. This allows visitors more room to spread apart and practice social distancing.

Increased law enforcement and staff presence will be added inside the parks to encourage social distancing and responsible recreation compliance.

Divers and swimmers on diving rocks at Sand Hollow Reservoir, Sand Hollow State Park, Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 3, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Park managers will update capacity estimates on their individual park social media pages and websites throughout the weekend.

Outdoor recreation is important to the health and wellness of Utahns and we all play a part in keeping one another safe, according to the news release. While outdoors, the public should not relax efforts to practice safe social distancing and #ResponsibleRecreation.

Visitors are encouraged to check park conditions online and individual state park social media accounts. Extensive wait times, closures and other updates will be posted there.

It is recommended to choose to visit a state park during a weekday, or during non-peak hours whenever possible and to visit parks that are close to home.

Visitors should practice safe social distancing by giving others at least six feet of separation on trails, golf courses, fishing docks, overlooks and other gathering areas. They should also avoid congregating at trailheads and other common areas, and maintain small group sizes.

Stay home if you’re sick, or have symptoms of the coronavirus.

Keep parks and recreation areas clean by packing out what you pack in, and respect facility closures like visitor centers, campgrounds and restrooms.

Visitors can also prepay for day use at select state parks at

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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