Memorial Day weekend is often thought of as the unofficial start of summer, with families heading out to lakes, mountains and campgrounds to enjoy being outdoors. Typically, schools that might still be in session, would be wrapping up the school year, and parents are usually finalizing their summer vacation plans.
This year's Memorial Day weekend is different, with COVID-19 restrictions still lingering in many places, even while businesses and governments try to find a path back to normalcy. The combination of a huge swath of the population not working, and many outdoor destinations being closed or declared off-limits to non-residents, has put a tremendous strain on parks and trails that have remained open during this pandemic. And while there may have been some hope that popular destinations would be re-opened by the holiday weekend, it's beginning to look like that won't be the case, in what appears to be a conscious effort by some land managers to delay re-openings until after the holiday. Meanwhile, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is still asking residents to be "safer at home" and not travel more than 10 miles from where they live unless absolutely necessary.
A summary of what is open and what isn't, as of the morning of Thursday, May 21:
Colorado Springs: All parks and trails remain open, while playgrounds, the Pioneers Museum and visitors centers remain closed. Some parks, such as North Cheyenne Cañon and Palmer Park are being overwhelmed, as evidenced by social media reports of cars parked illegally along narrow roads and also in adjacent neighborhoods. Police are ticketing illegally parked vehicles in city parks. If the park is crowded, find a different place to go, or come back at another time. Check the Healthy Parks website for trailhead parking conditions.
El Paso County: All parks and trails remain open, but playgrounds, pavilions and visitors centers remain closed. While county parks have not seen the same level of over-use as some city parks, Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Calhan has seen a large increase in users. Parks department staff and county security have increased their presence there to make sure everyone abides by park regulations.
Colorado State Parks: All parks are open, and campgrounds are in a state of phased re-opening. State Parks with campgrounds are following the guidelines of the counties in which they reside to determine whether to open. Camping spots may be limited, so check on availability with your favorite park before you go.
Chaffee County, home to many popular hiking trails and 14ers is beginning to relax its "residents only" policy and is gradually allowing tourists. Call ahead to see if your favorite destination is open. The county has also instituted a fire ban.
Pike National Foresthas extended its closure of all developed campgrounds and "developed" trailheads or other sites, until at least May 31. Trails, and some trailheads remain open to use, assuming you can get to them without going through a closed location. Additionally, fire restrictions are in place, prohibiting wood or charcoal campfires, among other activities. The popular Devils Head trail, campground, picnic area and the fire tower are closed to all users.
National Park Service: Sites in Colorado and surrounding areas have varying degrees of access. At nearby Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, the visitors center and parking lot are closed, however the Hornbeck and Barksdale trailheads remain open. Great Sand Dunes is closed until June 3, while Rocky Mountain National Park is closed until May 27, when it will begin a phased re-opening. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park's south rim visitors center and all campgrounds are closed. The south rim drive is open, and the north rim drive is open to day use only. Mesa Verde National Park is closed until further notice. Colorado National Monument is mostly open for people wishing to drive through or for hiking, but campgrounds and some picnic areas are closed and parts of the visitors center is open. At Dinosaur National Monument, the roads and trails are open, but the visitors center, campgrounds and river trips are closed.
Grand Canyon National Park will have limited service on its South Rim until May 25.
Navajo Nation:Monument Valley Tribal Park and all other parks are closed until further notice.
Hang in there. Things will return to something akin to "normal" soon.
Be Good. Do Good Things. Take a moment to reflect on Memorial Day.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.