Joshua Tree National Park reopened its gates to visitors yesterday (Sunday, May 17) at noon. According to a Park spokesman, while the Visitors Centers will remain closed until further notice, all roads and campgrounds are open. The national park had been closed since Saturday, March 21 when all roads and campgrounds were closed due to the spread of COVID-19. Visitors to the park are urged to continue practicing social distancing by avoiding congested trails and narrow trails where passing another hiker is risky or dangerous. While face coverings are no longer required in San Bernardino County, it is recommended that hikers carry one in the event that they cross the paths of other hikers.
Joshua Tree National Park has reopened access to:
- Park entrances
- Roads and parking lots
- Family campsites and backcountry camping
- Some bathroom facilities
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:
- Visitor centers
- Group campsites
- Entrance station booths are not staffed, but entrances are open
“With the lower summertime visitation numbers in mind, we have worked closely with the health offices in both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to ensure that the type of recreation at Joshua Tree is in line with current health advisories.” – said park superintendent David Smith. “By opening the park in phases, we plan on being able to take measured steps that ensure the safety of our staff and visitors while providing increased access to our National Park. “
To keep the park open, we will need your help to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Enjoy the outdoor recreation areas around your local community.
- Visit with members of your household only.
- Practice social distancing by maintaining 6 feet of distance between you and anyone outside of your household.
- Avoid crowded areas.
- Bring hand sanitizer, a mask, and other items to stay clean and safe. There are no hand sanitizing stations within the park and most of the restroom facilities do not have running water.
- Maintain space while passing others on a trail. The loop trails in the park, like Barker Dam and Hidden Valley, will be one-way only.
- Family campsites are open, but it is recommended that only members of the same household camp together. All 520 sites are first-come, first-served.
- Backcountry camping is open, but park officials ask that you camp in small groups with only members from your household.
In addition to health safety, Joshua Tree officials would like to remind the public about park specific safety:
- Drive slowly. Wildlife have become accustomed to the park without traffic and are spending more time on the road.
- The summer temperatures in the park can be deadly. Keep your visit short, bring plenty of water and avoid the hottest parts of the day.
- Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan on leaving.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Joshua Tree National Park, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.
While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders from San Bernardino County and Riverside County, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.