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Southern California outdoors updates during coronavirus crisis

Information on how to get outdoors in Southern California during the coronavirus crisis

As Southern California begins a phased opening of various parks, beachs and wilderness areas its

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis is fast evolving, so it's tough to keep track of what you can and can't do outdoors. Here we'll try to post updates as quickly as possible and point you to resources to help you enjoy the outdoors during this difficult time.

Updated April 26, 2020

City of San Diego

The City of San Diego and San Diego County have begun opening some trails, parks, beaches, open spaces and lakes and reservoirs. Generally speaking, they will be open for "passive purposes" only, which means things like hiking, running, biking, swimming, surfing, paddelboarding and kayaking.

The city has a PDF list on its website of which parks are open and which are closed.

Starting Monday, April 27, San Diego County will open the ocean and bays to the activities mentioned above, but each city (for instance, Carlsbad, Encinitas, etc.) will make it's own determination whether to open. Carlsbad, for instance, voted to keep its parks, trails and beaches closed. So check before you go. Recreational boating is still banned and beach parking lots will remain closed.

These are the protocols the city issued for visiting the parks during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Passive use only, such as walking, jogging, or hiking.
  • No congregating or participating in sports activities.
  • Do not shake hands or engage in any unnecessary physical contact.
  • Maintain social distancing of a minimum of 6-feet (1.8 meters) at all times.
  • Wear recommended face covering when in the parks and on the trails. Starting May 1, everyone must wear face coverings anywhere in public they come within 6 feet of another person.
  • Do not enter the parks or trails if you have a cough or fever.

Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County have closed all of its beaches in an effort to reduce crowds as officials try to enforce social-distancing guidelines to slow the spread of coronavirus. The order also applies to beach bike paths, bathrooms, piers and promenades.

All public hiking trails and trailheads in the city and count remain closed. People can still walkin and run in the parks, just not on the trails (confusing, we know). The county order to close everything

You can keep up with the latest updates on the city's parks and trails status here.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority closed all parks, trails and building facilities, including public restrooms, until further notice. This includes all parks that are owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Mount Baldy Ski Area opened again for spring skiing on Wednesday, April 22.

State Parks

The closures of California State Parks remain in place. The park serivce announced on March 30 that it had closed vehicle access at ALL 280 state parks and was fully closing others, meaning all trails and restrooms are closed. For the latest information and updates on park access, visit the state parks' COVID-19 resource page.

A list of all park that have been fully closed can be found here. For parks that ahave limited vehicle access but not close completely, you can still go on the beaches and trails, you just have to walk or bike top them.

The park service has temporarily closed all campgrounds in the state park system. Camping reservation holders will be contacted via email for refunds.

The park services has closed all high public use indoor facilities including visitor centers, museums and cafes, and temporarily suspended all tours and events. All non-campground outdoor areas of parks, including trails and beaches, remain open.

Visitors are reminded to practice social distancing and maintain at least six feet between other visitors and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Restrooms also remain open, and visitors are advised to take soap for hand washing and alcohol-based hand sanitizers when water is not available.

Visit webites for these parks for more info. Popular areas include:

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Cuyamaca Rancho State park
Palomar Mountain State Park

National Parks

National parks in Southern California are mostly closed to visitors with facilities are shuttered.Joshua Tree, Sequoia & Kings Canyon and Cabrillo National Monument are completely closed to the public.

Death Valley is still open to cars and a couple of gas stations remained open at the time this is being written. The parks trails are still open and backpacking and dispersed roadside camping is allowed. The Oasis, Stovepipe, and Panamint Springs are open. Take-out food, camping, and lodging are available at Panamint Springs Resort. Check the parks website, linked below, for the latest info.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area closes all trailheads, restrooms and overlooks on weekends, but is opening them during the week when vistor traffic is lighter. More info here.

Visit webites for these parks for more info. Popular areas include:

Cabrillo National Monument
Death Valley National Park
Joshua Tree National Park Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

National Forests, National Monuments and Wilderness area

The U.S. Forest Service campgrounds, picnic areas and other developed recreation sites are closed in forests statewide until at least April 30, including Cleveland, Angeles, San Bernardino and Los Padres forests, which cover a large swath of Southern California. Cleveland National Forest has also shut down the Three Sisters Falls and Cedar Creek Falls trails in San Diego County due to overcrowding.

"While designated recreation sites will be closed, the general Forest area including the extensive trail system will remain open and available to the public," forest officials said in a statement. "Hiking and walking outdoors are widely considered beneficial to maintaining one’s health. It is the intent of USDA Forest Service to maintain trail access to the extent practicable."

BLM which manages federal wilderness areas is temporarily restricting in-person public access to visitor centers and public rooms in its California offices. Please check with individual offices regarding customer services available by phone or email.

Visitors may continue to enjoy BLM trails and open space areas. Please check with local offices before you go. Visit the BLM website for a complete list of contact information for various local offices.

BLM is encouraging visitors are encouraged to “pack it in and pack it out” as future trash pick up may be limited due to limited staff availability in some areas.

Visit webites for these destinations for more info. Popular areas include:

Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Avoid Travel to At-Risk Backcountry Areas

Given the governor's recent mandate for everyone to shelter-in-place to encourage social distancing, its best to avoid travel during this period, even to backcountry areas. Places like Julian, Bishop, Borrego Springs and other areas often have a high proportion of older residents who are at particular risk to the virus and limited medical facilities.

It's best to stay local if your going to get outside, keep your distance from other people and take it easy so you don't get hurt - medical facilities are likely to be overburdened in coming weeks. Unfortunately, many local parks, beaches and trails have been closed, as many people where crowding these areas and not abiding by social distancing protocols. See below for recent updates on what's closed.

We're still parsing what it means for visiting parks and enjoying outdoor activities. Please err on the side of caution when considering whether to get outdoors. We will continue adding to this page as more information becomes available.