As the National Park Service follows guidance from the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state and local public health authorities on a phased reopening of some trails and monuments that were closed in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, some parks popular with area residents are sure to see an increase in visitors during Memorial Day weekend.
However, be aware that many parks, while open, are still operating at reduced staffing, and with fewer amenities.
Some parks, like Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, remain in Phase One of their reopening.
If you are thinking of taking a drive this weekend, be sure to plan ahead and make sure to take items like extra water, as many facilities such as bathrooms and water fountains remain closed.
Here’s a list of some of the nearby parks and their available resources.
While these are popular parks not too far from the D.C. area, if you’re looking to get farther afield, use the park service’s Park Finder tool.
What’s Closed: Old Rag, Whiteoak Canyon and associated trails, trail heads and picnic areas. Park maps are not being distributed, so you should bring your own or download the park’s app.
What’s Open: Skyline Drive and other trails, limited bathrooms. Entry fees apply. Visitors are asked to refrain from using cash to pay park fees.
Great Falls Park
Location: McLean, Virginia
Status: The park itself has not closed, but parking lots were closed to reduce the number of visitors to the park just 15 miles from D.C. But as of 8 a.m. on May 23, the parking lots reopened.
What’s Closed: The visitor’s center is closed, and no fee is currently being charged for entry.
What’s Open: Bathrooms and parking lots are now open but will be managed to maintain opportunities for social distancing.
Location: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Status: Some aspects of the park near the intersection of West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland are closed. However, two parking lots — River Access and Train Station — are now open.
What’s Closed: NHP buildings, restrooms and shuttle buses. Footbridge connecting the C&O Canal Towpath in Maryland to Harpers Ferry over the Potomac River is closed due to a train accident earlier in 2020.
Fort McHenry National Monument
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Status: The monument, on the edge of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the Patapsco River, has been closed since March 28 and will continue to be closed, even during President Donald Trump’s planned visit on Memorial Day. This is where Francis Scott Key witnessed the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, which inspired him to write The Star Spangled Banner.
What’s Closed: Park facilities, grounds and parking lots.
What’s Open: Currently nothing in the park is open.
Location: Great Falls, Maryland
Status: The popular hiking trail, which starts on the canal towpath but progresses to more rugged terrain which occasionally requires the rescue of ill-prepared hikers, is open.
What’s Closed: Park facilities, bathrooms, water fountains.
What’s Open: Access to the park and its trails remain open during the pandemic
Location: Sharpsburg, Maryland
Status: The battlefield itself, where “the bloodiest day in American history” took place on Sept. 17, 1862 during the Civil War, is open.
What’s Closed: Vistor’s center and bathrooms. The observation tower is closed due to planned repairs until July.
What’s Open: Roads and trails remain open during the pandemic.
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