Finding social distance measured in miles in Utah’s ‘Mighty 5’ national parks

We were one-third of the way into the 6-mile hike and about a third of the way down the canyon wall’s thousand-foot descent when doubt began to choke my breath like the 100-degree heat radiating off the desert rocks and to pull at my shoulders and hips like the 40-pound pack strapped there.

My wife, Lori, always game for the next adventure, looked to me, trusting that the path would get easier as I’d promised. But I didn’t know, not for sure anyway. And I voiced the question all hikers dread: 

“Should we turn back?”

After four months as virtual shut-ins during the coronavirus pandemic, we’d come to southern Utah seeking a balance between the open spaces we craved and secure measures against the new coronavirus. While traveling by air represented a calculated risk, we found what we sought — and so much more — in the state’s “Mighty Five” national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion.

What to know before you go: Visiting a reopened national park during the pandemic

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