How California’s Stay-at-Home Order Is Impacting the State’s National Park Access
Rule changes are forcing many of the state’s nine national parks to adjust as well.
An unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout California prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom last Thursday to issue a new stay-at-home order for the state’s southern and central regions, where availability of hospital beds in intensive care units has become dangerously low.
After becoming the first state to institute a stay-at-home order in the early stages of the pandemic, California is now averaging 21,000 new cases per day. More than 10,000 patients are presently hospitalized throughout the state, a lofty number that climbed 70 percent in the last two weeks alone.
As has been the case throughout the country, the appeal of the outdoors has surged as citizens thrust into a life sans typical amenities rush to find new sources of stimulation.
However, the rule changes are forcing many of the state’s nine national parks to adjust as well. To ensure you remain well-informed before mapping out your next escape, we threw together the following list of park-by-park updates that have been made in response to Gov. Newsom’s directive.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
One of America’s most famous parks, Yosemite will, beginning Dec. 7, only be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for day activities, officials announced. Visitors must leave before the park’s 5 p.m. closing time.
This means all campgrounds and lodging spaces are indefinitely closed. Additionally, all shuttles have ceased operation.
Day activities such as rock-climbing, hiking, and bicycling will remain open during the aforementioned hours.
Read more here for the comprehensive list of Yosemite-related updates.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Like Yosemite, Joshua Tree shuttered its campgrounds on Dec. 7. All park ranger programs, museums, and exhibits have also been suspended.
“A section of Indian Cove and Black Rock Campgrounds will remain open to hikers, but not to campers,” park officials announced.
Visitor center information desks, park entrances, and most roads will remain open. Additionally, park officials announced that wilderness backpacking will continue to be available.
SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS
Campgrounds in both of the neighboring parks will be closed from Dec. 8 until at least Dec. 28. Additionally, the parks will not allow any self-contained roadside camping off the road or in parking areas.
Any reservations canceled by park officials due to COVID-19 restrictions will be automatically refunded in full.
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Campgrounds, including backcountry sites, are closed until further notice, as are lodges and indoor dining facilities . Gas stations and take-out food options, however, will remain open.
Visitor centers will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., though all exhibits and film displays are suspended.
Park roads, trailheads, and overlooks also will remain open, the National Park Service announced.
Get more information about Death Valley’s closures here.
CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Both the park’s mainland and island visitor centers and campgrounds have been shut down until further notice.
Pier construction has also forced the closure of Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island.
Channel Islands will remain open for day visits, with popular visitor items like kayak tours and boat transportation to the islands operating at 50 percent capacity.
REDWOOD NATIONAL AND STATE PARKS
As of publication, the most recent update to COVID-19 restrictions in Redwood National and State Parks indicates standard and backcountry camping remain open, pending permit and reservation confirmation.
Retail spaces are also open at 25 percent capacity.
“When recreating, please follow local area health orders and recreate responsibly by keeping social distance, wearing a face covering when social distance cannot be maintained, avoiding high risk activities, and staying home if you feel sick,” park officials advised.
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK
Of the state’s nine parks, Lassen Volcanic National Park appears to be the most accessible, pending winter-related closures.
Vehicle access will fluctuate based on snowfall, as will access to snow-covered hiking trails.
The Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, which will be open Wednesday to Sunday, will also make limited food and supplies available during the weekend.
PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK
Entry fees at Pinnacles may currently be waved, but that doesn’t mean the 26,000-acre park will be all-access.
While the west side of the park’s parking areas and trails are open, all shuttle services and caves throughout the park are closed until further notice, as are Bear Gulch Nature Center and the West Visitor Center.