UPDATED: Bryce Canyon set to reopen next week as Garfield County opens for camping, fishing

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, date not specified | Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Following the reopening of Garfield County for business effective Friday, Bryce Canyon National Park is expected to open May 6.

Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins told St. George News that Bryce Canyon will be opening up for travelers to drive up the canyon and hike the trails.

According to the National Park Service, the main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point will be open, along with trails in the Bryce Amphitheater area. Restrooms will be available at Sunset Point. However, the following facilities will remain closed:

  • Park Visitor Center and fee booths.
  • Park campgrounds.
  • Mossy Cave parking and trail area.
  • Backcountry trails, including the Under the Rim trail and campsites.
  • Park concessions facilities.

Perkins said that it has been much more difficult to reopen Bryce Canyon than it was to close it.

The process of reopening, he said, has been about “government, red tape and some folks that didn’t want to open it. And when you have people who don’t want to open it, they can find a lot of red tape — trust me.”

Thor’s Hammer, one of Bryce Canyon National Park’s most iconic hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, July 15, 2016 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Perkins stressed the importance of visitors remembering to be respectful and “practice social distancing and be smart and be safe.”

Garfield County also released a statement Wednesday evening about reopening the area for business.

“We never really have closed Garfield County,” Perkins said. “We did at one time. We had a few places that we closed down like Calf Creek Campground, some of our trailheads and some of our slot canyons that it was just impossible to practice social distancing.”

The rest of the county has always been open for camping as long as visitors abide by some restrictions.

“But all that’s been lifted. Come to Garfield County and fish and camp and live,” Perkins said.

“You can’t just keep people restricted like they’ve been for long periods of time because that starts to take its toll on individuals,” he said, stressing the importance of keeping in mind the mental health aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening of Bryce Canyon is essential for many businesses in the area, such as Ruby’s Inn, which has been open for 104 years, General Manager Lance Syrett told St. George News.

He said that though it’s fortunate being the closest hotel to Bryce Canyon, when the national parks close, “it’s kind of like being the hotel across the street from Disneyland when Disneyland’s closed – it really doesn’t make any sense.”

Old Bryce Town and Ruby’s Inn, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Ruby’s Inn, St. George News

Ruby’s Inn saw a 98% drop in revenue throughout April, he said.

“You can’t even wrap your brain around that kind of number. In the tourism business, margins aren’t that great anyway, so even a 20 or 30 percent drop in revenues is pretty catastrophic.”

For a tourism business, the pandemic timing struck right at the beginning of the season as Bryce Canyon is a summer through fall destination. In a normal year in May, he said about 65%-70% of their business is from international visitors.

“During the winter we live on the cash we make the rest of the year, so when you don’t have any cash coming in the spring, it really hurts.”

Syrett said all employees are wearing masks and they continue practicing the same precautions in order to keep good standards for sanitation and hygiene.

He also mentioned that rates for hotels are a function of demand, and because of the drop in demand, rates at Ruby’s Inn are significantly lower.

Last year on this night, Syrett said he would’ve been renting rooms at Ruby’s Inn for about $160-$170.

“Right now, you can come up and get one for 69 bucks,” he said. “And that’s pretty much going to be the same deal for most of May and most of June as well.”

Reservations for August and September are still hanging in there, Syrett said, but he anticipates there are still going to be a lot of rolling cancellations.

The 700 rooms at the resort comprise three different hotels. The Bryce View Lodge closes during the winter and usually opens around the last week of March. Syrett said they don’t plan on opening that until the demand warrants it. They did have to close the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel for the last few weeks but anticipate reopening the evening of May 6, when Bryce Canyon is expected to open.

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

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