Some California Parks Are Reopening – Here’s What Visitors Need To Know (MAP)

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Two national parks in California – Joshua Tree National Park and Sequoias national park – announced a partial reopening with some restrictions. Officials at Yosemite National Park have developed a reopening plan in June. And parks across the state allow some vehicles access to parking lots, which have been closed for weeks. But with more options opening up, the tips on how to keep yourself and others in the great outdoors can be confusing.

That’s because, in part, California counties are at different stages of Governor Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order, with various public health guidelines applicable.

Gloria Sandoval, assistant director of public affairs for California State Parks, understands how confusing it can be, and said the best thing visitors can do before Memorial Day – and during the summer months – is to check online before you go.

“In doing so, they will find out the regulations in place, the restrictions, whether the park is even open, whether there is parking,” Sandoval said. “This will ensure that they are ready to responsibly recreate themselves in the great outdoors.”

Planning ahead is even more important as many local businesses are always closed or only pick up at limited times. In some places, this means that if you miss an essential, like sunscreen or water, you might be out of luck. Visitor centers will also be closed, so Lauretig said you should be prepared with a park map.

And you also need to make sure you have a backup plan.

“Before you even enter the park, think about other hikes or other places you want to visit,” Lauretig said. “Maybe Joshua Tree National Park is way too busy to visit on Memorial Day weekend, there are plenty of places to explore.”

Planning a trip to a park? Find its status on the map below:


Lisa Pickoff-White and Michelle Wiley, KQED

Before you get ready to go, here are some recommendations:

Check the park before you go

Some parks only have 50% parking capacity, some are only open for the day and others are fully closed. Before you go, call the park or check online to make sure you know the restrictions before you go.

Plan ahead

Remember: most bathrooms in parks are either not open or will not have essential hygiene supplies like soap or hand sanitizer. With many businesses closed or operating on limited hours, be sure to pack what you need.

Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • The water
  • Solar cream
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Park plan

Make a backup plan

Let’s say you arrive at a state park and the parking lot is absolutely crowded. Or you can see from the sidewalk that there are definitely too many people at the trailhead to allow for safe social distancing.

What’s your next best option? Make a mental (or physical) list of places you could go instead and make a back-up plan for them.

Keep an eye out for wild animals

With reports of increasing sightings of coyotes and rattlesnakes basking in the sun amid the park’s trails, Sandoval said visitors should be careful as some wildlife have become accustomed to a human-free environment.

“Don’t put your hands and feet where your eyes haven’t seen,” Lauretig said.

People traveling to Joshua Tree and other desert parks should also be wary of turtles along the route, Lauretig said.

“Turtles feed on all this green food, these flowers and other things,” he said. “So people have to slow down and be very careful when pulling off the road or seeing something around the road ahead of them.”

A sign reads “Slow for Tortoise” in Joshua Tree National Park on May 18, a day after the park reopened after it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Follow the park rules

True before the pandemic and still true now: It’s a good idea to follow the rules in a public park.

Sandoval said there are fewer park staff in the area due to COVID-19, visitors should be very careful not to leave any traces.

Keep it moving

As the park’s facilities open up for hiking and walking, visitors, for the most part, are asked not to stay in an area for too long.

“On the majority of the beaches, we ask people not to bring coolers, chairs, not to linger. Only active recreation is allowed,” said Sandoval.

A good rule of thumb? Don’t bring anything that you wouldn’t want to carry around all day.

Be careful!

While it can be easy to overlook the state of the world by standing under towering redwoods or gazing at the vastness of the ocean, remember: Standard coronavirus health guidelines still apply.

Make sure to keep at least 6 feet away from others, wear a mask with you, and don’t hang out with people you don’t live with.


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