List of National Parks that are Open During the Shutdown

As most people are well aware at this point, the vast majority of the parks within the national park system are closed due to the government shutdown. A few states have worked with the government and they have decided to reopened a few parks with state funds. It’s important to note that just because a state has decided to reopen some parks within their state, that doesn’t mean that all of the national parks sites within their state are open. The number of sites open is still only a small percentage of the 401 sites that make up the national park system. Below is the current list of sites that are currently open, along with the dates that they are scheduled to remain open:


grand canyon national park arizona

Grand Canyon National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)


rocky mountain national park

Rocky Mountain National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 11 to 20)

New York

statue of liberty

Statue of Liberty National Monument (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)

North Carolina / Tennessee

national park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 16 to 20)

South Dakota

mount rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (currently scheduled to be open from October 14 to 23)


Arches National Park

All Utah parks are currently scheduled to be open from October 11 – 20

Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Natural Bridges National Monument
Zion National Park

Grand Canyon Thanksgiving

By Kristen Lummis (enjoy her blog Brave Ski Mom, like her on facebook or follow her on twitter @BraveSkiMom)

Like many families, we have a Thanksgiving tradition that we cherish. Every other year, we spend Thanksgiving at Grand Canyon National Park.

turnout view at Grand Canyon National Park

Here’s how we do it. We take advantage of the four day weekend and make it a five day weekend, taking the boys out of school on Wednesday and driving through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Southwest. We leave early in the morning, so that we have time to stop and take in the beauty of southwest.

Along the way we have made detours to Newspaper Rock where we try to decipher centuries of petroglyphs. We’ve stopped along the San Juan River in the beautiful village of Bluff, Utah for lunch and more Native American art. We’ve driven out of our way to stand high above the Goosenecks of the San Juan near Mexican Hat. We’ve spent a couple of hours at Monument Valley, drinking in its grandeur and learning about the Navajo code talkers in the museum. We’ve pulled off the road between Kayenta and Tuba City, not for something to see, but just because it was a beautiful day and we thought it would be fun to toss a football.

And then once we enter the park at Desert View, we stop at every turnout until we reach Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Because no matter how many times you have seen the Grand Canyon, each time is like the first time, even if you just saw it 10 minutes ago. The Canyon is an awe-inspiring sight.

peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon

So once we are there, what do we do? We hike, we play cards, we browse the National Park Service bookshops, we eat (of course!) and we hike some more. The first year, just our family of four made the trip. We had such an amazing time that two years later, we invited my parents. We awoke on Thanksgiving Day to fresh snow. It was magical and muddy, but we still went hiking.

Grand Canyon Thanksgiving family hike

In 2009, we stayed home for Thanksgiving, but the following weekend we were at the Canyon hiking down to Phantom Ranch were we spent two night before trekking back out. Last year, my parents and my husband’s mom joined us on the South Rim.

Grand Canyon hiking to Phantom Ranch

Thanksgiving is a day for traditions. This happens to be ours. It’s a tradition I hope we will continue even as our sons grow into adulthood and have their own families. We are thankful that we have found something so meaningful to us.

More on Thanksgiving and Winter at the Grand Canyon

snow at the Grand Canyon in winter

Although the Winter season crowds are much smaller, it’s still important to reserve your room or camping spot at the Grand Canyon as early as you can. Reservations are taken at Xanterra up to one year in advance.

While meals at the historic El Tovar Lodge usually require reservations months in advance, no reservations are accepted for their delicious Thanksgiving Feast. Instead, you give them your name and the number in your party and they will tell you how long the wait will be.


Hopi Salt Mines Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

After passing by the Little Colorado River between miles 63.5 and 65 while rafting in Grand Canyon National Park, you begin to see white deposits against the red rock toward the bottom of the Colorado River canyon walls. These are the sacred Hopi Indian salt mines where the Hopi Indians would come to gather salt for seasoning and preserving their food.

Hopi salt mines in Grand Canyon

This area is considered sacred ground and river rafts are not allowed to stop to inspect the salt mines in more detail. In addition to using the salt for everyday uses, a pilgrimage to these Grand Canyon salt mines was traditionally the culmination of a Hopi Indian right of passage bringing males into adulthood.

Humpback Chub Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

The Humpback Chub is a bottom feeder fish that thrived in the warm waters of the Colorado River before Glen Canyon Dam was built and turned the Colorado River into a much colder river that it is today. It was declared endangered in 1967 and has one of its last strongholds in the Little Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. Since the Humpback Chub is protected from fishing, it has learned to recognize the bottoms of the river rafts coming down the Colorado River and gathers around them when they stop to camp near the Little Colorado River. This gives the unique and special opportunity to actually see numerous examples of this endangered fish in the wild:

Humpback Chub gathering around raft in Grand Canyon

endangered Humpback Chub Grand Canyon National Park

Turquoise Mineral Pools Little Colorado River Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

The Little Colorado River is a breathtaking turquoise color due to the alkaline and minerals content of the water. In addition to creating the wonderful color of the Little Colorado River, the minerals settle in the Little Colorado River channel to create pools which the river cascades over on its way down the canyon:

Pools made of minerals created in the Little Colorado River

Turquoise mineral pools at Little Colorado River

The turquoise waters of the Little Colorado River cascading over these mineral deposit pools makes it look like you have left Grand Canyon National Park and been teleported to some tropical paradise on the other side of the world. With the Little Colorado River’s water being much warmer than the Colorado River’s temperature (about 70 degrees versus 50 degrees), you can comfortably sit in any of the hundreds of mineral pools which have been created to relax and cool off from the hot Grand Canyon sun — something that I took full advantage of.

Little Colorado River Confluence Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

We spent our second night in Grand Canyon National Park along the Colorado River at a campsite called Above Little Colorado River. As its name implies, the campsite was located just upriver from the Little Colorado River. The Little Colorado River has a high alkaline and mineral content which gives the river a beautiful turquoise hue. This can readily be seen at the confluence where the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River meet:

Meeting of the Colorado River and Little Colorado River

It was fascinating watching the color of the two rivers meet and blend together as the color line between the two constantly changed and moved.

Rock Slide Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

One of the most interesting things I learned while river rafting down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park is that much of the Grand Canyon sandstone isn’t originally red. When you look from the rim of the Grand Canyon down toward the river and see the huge expanse of red sandstone walls, it isn’t difficult to assume that all that color is the original color of the canyon walls. In reality, much of the lower Grand Canyon walls that are red in appearance have simply been stained on the outside by upper layers of the canyon that are red. A perfect illustration of this is the scar left by a recent rock slide within the Grand Canyon we came across after leaving Redwall Cavern:

Grand Canyon rock slide Colorado River rafting

As the rock slide shows, the color of the rock is actually white and not the red of the surrounding rock that has been stained over time. Of course, this newly exposed rock will also eventually get stained to the red we all associate with the Grand Canyon, but I found it interesting to consider what impressions we would all have of the Grand Canyon if it were mostly white instead of red…

Redwall Cavern Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

Located between mile 33 and 34 along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park (and just over a mile downriver from Vasey’s Paradise) Redwall Cavern is a giant symphony-sized amphitheater created by the river eroding away the limestone Grand Canyon walls. John Wesley Powell, upon seeing Redwall Cavern, guessed that 50,000 people would fit into it. Although it would be a perfect place to camp, it’s one of the sandbars along the Colorado River where it’s prohibited to camp or build fires.

Redwall Cavern Colorado River rafting

When you land at Redwall Cavern, you will immediately see the fresh feet and tail tracks of countless lizards and other small animals that make their home within the cavern. The wide open space in the shade makes for a perfect place to take out a football or Frisbee to toss around with friends, and it’s a must to walk to the back of the cavern to touch the far wall (this gives you a good perspective on how big Redwall Cavern really is).

Redwall Cavern looking onto the Colorado River
Photo courtesy of Angela Saurine

If you look closely at the rocks toward the front left (when looking out at the river) of Redwall Cavern, you should be able to spot fossils within them. Our guide showed us some and then I spent about half an hour looking at the rocks and found numerous other fossils within the rocks there.

Vasey’s Paradise Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

While it’s possible to hike to Vasey’s Paradise (also called Vaseys Paradise) from Stanton’s cave (only about 1/4 of a mile further away), I chose not to do so. There is thick vegetation at the bottom of Vasey’s Paradise includes the one area in Grand Canyon National Park where poison ivy is abundant, and getting poison ivy was not how I wanted to spend my grand canyon rafting trip. It’s also where the critically endangered Kanab Ambersnail lives.

Vasey’s Paradise is the first waterfall on the Colorado River rafting trip which flows year round (there are plenty of waterfalls along the river that are active during flash floods, but quickly dry up). Vasey’s Paradise was named after a botanist who travelled with Powell surveying the river in 1868. The waterfall gets its water from rain that seeps through the upper sandstone layers of the canyon until it hits harder rock where it gathers. It flows out from the upper cliff faces from two cave holes in the canyon wall.

Vasey's Paradise waterfall

This is the first oasis that is seen from the river on the rafting trip, but for the aforementioned reason, isn’t a place where rafts usually stop to explore. It does make for a wonderful contrast to the desert environment as you float past it down the river.

Vaseys Paradise waterfall from Colorado River

Stanton’s Cave Grand Canyon National Park Rafting

With the South Canyon hike thwarted, I decided to try and make my way to Stanton’s cave in Grand Canyon national Park. To make it to Stanton’s cave from our camping area was a short hike downriver toward Vasey’s Paradise after climbing up a rock ridge above the beach. A good pair of hiking shoes is definitely recommended if you want to attempt this hike.

Stanton’s cave is quite large and many artifacts were discovered in it, but it is no longer possible to access the cave as there have been large steel bars placed across its entrance to protect the endangered Townsend’s big-eared bats that live and roost there (This is a good resource if you are looking for more information on the history of Stanton’s cave and bats, and preservation efforts that have taken place over the years). While the cave does first appear to be a former mine and the original signing describes it as such, it’s actually a natural cave.

hiking to entrance of Stanton's Cave

view of Stanton's cave through restricting bars

Just inside the bars is a sign explaining why the cave is blocked:

bat sign found in Stanton's Cave

Protected Habitat

This abandoned mine cave has been closed for your safety and to protect bat habitat.

Bats use mines for day roosting, rearing their young during summer, hibernating during winter, gathering for social activities such as courtship and mating, and for crucial rest stops during nightly feeding or spring and fall migrations.

Bats are among the world’s most beneficial but vulnerable mammals. Townsend Big-Eared Bat

The hike to Stanton’s cave is about half a mile (1 mile round trip) from the South Canyon camping beach. It does require some rock scrambling to get up to the ridge above the beach. A path is well worn to the cave, but you do need to be cautious while walking it as there are quite a few loose rocks. Simple head in the direction of Vasey’s Paradise. You may also spot big horn sheep while hiking to the cave (I did).