It's about to get easier to travel around two of the most popular national parks in the U.S.
Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are allowing group bus tours to resume as COVID-19 infection rates decline and vaccination numbers rise across the country. Passengers will be required to wear a mask on board, according to the National Park Service rules.
Tour operators that mandate passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative test result taken within 72 hours of arrival will be allowed to operate at full capacity, the park service said. Operators not taking those steps will be restricted to a maximum capacity of 50% or 10 passengers — whichever is greater.
Buses have become an increasingly popular way to explore the parks in recent years, with more than 12,800 vehicles operating in Yellowstone alone in 2016, according to Montana newspaper Billings Gazette.
Yellowstone — the world's first official national park — covers more than 2.2 million acres, making it larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. It's an area that includes hundreds of waterfalls and half of the world's hydrothermal features. Among them is Old Faithful, the world-famous geyser that erupts about 17 times a day. Grand Teton National Park is smaller, but with nearly 310,000 acres of mountains, lakes, and plains, it, too, is far easier to explore from a vehicle.
This year, domestic travelers flying into airports near popular parks may be even more appreciative of group bus travel.
Visitors in popular tourist destinations across the U.S. are finding rental car options are woefully limited due to surging demand. Some travelers in Hawaii have even taken to U-Haul to get around skyrocketing prices and a rental car shortage in the state.
Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
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