Camping Amid Covid?

Photo by Kelsey Johnson on

A couple of days ago, we received an email from Zion National Park Lodge. The park will open sooner than anticipated, and the lodge had a limited number of reservations available.

We had reservations for early June that were automatically cancelled in April when the park closed. We were disappointed but not surprised.

Now, here was an opportunity to possibly rebook the trip and go. I already knew we wouldn’t, but we had a family discussion about it. As National Parks and campgrounds open up, a lot of people are itching to go outside. Especially after being stuck inside, possible walking along the same route for the last two months (that’s me!).

On the surface, a camping trip sounds like a good idea. You’re outside. It’s just you and nature. We’ve been dreaming of a trip to Zion. But we weighed the negatives and decided  it wasn’t a prudent decision to go.

First of all, we live in Texas. While we have driven to Utah before, we were planing on flying into Las Vegas. Flights are an added stress now with social distancing practices. I haven’t flown since the pandemic, but I understand that there are new protocols at airports, plus I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable on an airplane. There have been mixed messages on whether airlines are actually spacing out passengers on seats.

Secondly, while the parks are opening up, there will be limited services. That may mean limits on programs, food offerings, guided excursions or even local businesses outside the park. For us, the trip was more than just a chance to get outside and explore. It would be a full vacation. We wouldn’t have the same experience.

Limited services also means limited interactions with people. I love meeting other travelers and locals, whether it’s the rangers in the parks, or local business owners.

Finally, while we’d be limited on some types of positive interaction, from what I’ve seen online at other parks, it’s quite possible that the popular trails will still be packed. A packed trail is annoying on a regular day, but in the days of COVID, there’s an added layer of stress.

Those were some reasons my husband and I were able to immediately come up with as cons against the trip. On the other hand, we really wanted to go to Zion and maybe there would be work arounds. Surely, wearing face masks would help on the plane. We could drive, but that might mean a night in a hotel on the way and that is something we wanted to avoid.

Yes, services would be limited, but the restaurant at the lodge would be open for carry out. If we stayed in the park, we could hit the popular trails at the crack of dawn to minimize crowds and otherwise hike less popular trails.

There are workarounds.

But what really it really came down to is the negative affect our trip might have on local community. Our trip would mean more people visiting remote areas and possibly exposing local communities. If we drove, we would expose even more people in remote areas. What if we became sick, we would be a burden on local hospital and health care professionals.  We are strict about leave no trace principles. We want to leave nature as it is. An extension of that is we don’t want to bring harm to local communities we are visiting. We might not think we’re not carriers, but I don’t know that for sure and it’s not fair for me to make that decision to expose a local community without their say.

In the end, we decided that it wasn’t prudent to take a trip this summer to Zion National Park. We look forward to a trip next summer.

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