Frequently Asked Questions - State Parks and COVID-19

Last Updated: 5/15/2020

What is State Parks doing to protect the public?

As the State of California continues to issue guidance on preparing and protecting all Californians from coronavirus (COVID-19), California State Parks is monitoring the situation and implementing temporary safety measures such as full closures to prevent employees, volunteers, partners and the public from exposure to the pandemic disease. Additionally, the department is working with locals on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access to some state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. State Parks will continue to monitor visitation and physical distancing across the state park system and if unsafe conditions develop, park units may close again.

Just because the stay-at-home order may be modified, it does not mean things are going back to normal. Californians must continue to stay local, practice physical distancing, avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household and abide to new visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented across the state park system to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening of these public outdoor spaces will be made with little advance notice and visitors should expect a different state park experience than they are used to. With 280 park units in the state park system, visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Some state parks units, guided tours, campgrounds, and indoor facilities like museums and visitor centers remain temporarily closed until further notice to prevent overcrowding and maintain physical distancing.

In support of the state’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, State Parks temporarily closed some parks fully, meaning all vehicular access, trails, and restrooms within these park units were closed. The department also closed vehicular access at all park units, including for off-highway vehicles and recreational boats; closed all campgrounds, museums and visitor centers; and cancelled all events.

What do fully closed parks mean to the public?

Park units temporarily fully closed to the public means there is no public access at these public outdoor spaces. All beaches, trails and restrooms within these parks are closed. Additionally, there are no parking facilities for visitors, including for off-highway vehicles and recreational boats. A list of the full closures is available online.

View List – This list is dynamic and is updated with new information as it becomes available. The public is urged to check with their local and county authorities on their park closures.

ALL 280 state parks are closed to vehicular traffic?

No. California State Parks is working with locals on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access to some state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved.

Just because the stay-at-home order may be modified, it does not mean things are going back to normal. It is critical that Californians continue to stay close to home, practice physical distancing, avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household and abide to new visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented across the state park system to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. State Parks will continue to monitor visitation and physical distancing across the state park system and if unsafe conditions develop, park units may close again.

The reopening of these public outdoor spaces will be made with little advance notice and visitors should expect a different state park experience than they are used to. With 280 park units in the state park system, visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available. Parking is very limited or non-existent at park units across the state. Walk or bike to parks in your local neighborhood. Do not take road trips to parks and beaches or to neighboring states.

What is currently open? Are trails open where there are parking lot closures?

With 280 park units in the state park system, visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Please remember to respect the landscapes by staying on designated trails, not picking flowers, taking only photos and packing out all your trash if no trash bins are available.

Are boat launching ramps also closed? 

Some boat launching facilities have opened. Visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Will you eventually be closing all parks during these challenging times?

At this time, there are no plans to close all state parks.

Why did you close the campgrounds?

The State of California understands that many Californians are eager to spend time in the outdoors given the public health crisis, but at this time guided tours, campgrounds, and indoor facilities like museums and visitor centers remain closed until further notice to prevent overcrowding and maintain physical distancing.

State Parks continues following guidance from the Governor’s Office via the California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as to when it is safe to allow the public to gather in larger groups.

What happens if I have reservations? And how far out will the cancellations be for my reservations?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic situation is dynamic and fluid. Should there be a need to extend the campground closures, affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email and provided with a refund. Cancellation fees were waived.
  • Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic: Visitors do not need to take any action. However, please note that due to the volume of visitors affected, the refund process may take some time. State Parks appreciates the patience of the public as it moves through this process.
  • For those concerned about their reservation, ReserveCalifornia’s Call Center is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT. and available via phone at (800) 444-7275. Please be advised that at this time call volume may be higher.
  • Reservations affected by COVID-19 include all overnight accommodations (campgrounds, traditional campsites, hotel rooms, dorms, cottages, yurts, and cabins) as well as all tours.
  • State Parks does not have an exact date for reopening its campgrounds. The department will be following guidance from the Governor’s Office via the California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as to when it is safe to allow the public to gather in larger groups.

How long will the campground closure be in effect?

The situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving daily and at this time, State Parks does not have an exact date for reopening our campgrounds. The department will be following guidance from the Governor’s Office via the California Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as to when it is safe to allow the public to gather in larger groups.

What if I want to cancel or modify my reservation?

  • For individuals wishing to cancel their reservations, State Parks will be waiving any fees for cancellations or modifications for tours or camping/ accommodation reservations due to COVID-19 concerns. As of now, this fee waiver will be in effect until June 7, 2020. Please note that the date may be extended as the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving daily.
  • Questions? Please connect with ReserveCalifornia’s Call Center. It is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT and available via phone at (800) 444-7275. Please be advised that at this time call volume may be higher.
  • Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to support the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are some basic protocols to minimize the possible transmission of COVID-19 when outdoors?

Here are some visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors:

  • Stay Local – Stay close to home. Parking is very limited or non-existent at park units across the state. Walk or bike to parks in your local neighborhood. Do not take road trips to parks and beaches or to neighboring states.
  • Leave it at Home – The use of coolers, umbrellas, shade tents, BBQs or chairs is not allowed in many park units. Plan ahead.
  • Keep it Moving – Passive recreation (lounging, picnics, sunbathing, etc.) is being restricted where physical distance is a challenge. In those areas, only active recreation (walking, running, biking, boating, kayaking, off-highway riding, etc.) will be allowed. Also, watch out for one-way trails.
  • Stay Safer at 6ft – No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Visitors are being asked to leave if there are too many people to allow for the required physical distance.
  • Keep Clean – Be prepared. Not all restrooms are open to the public. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash.

Though State Park Peace Officers and allied law enforcement entities have the authority to issue citations, the expectation is that the public will adhere to the advice of the public health officials, visitor guidelines and closures. State Parks will continue to monitor visitation and physical distancing across the state park system and if unsafe conditions develop, park units may close again.

During these difficult times, protecting yourself, your loved ones, communities and those who take care of parks from the exposure to COVID-19 is critical.

Why is there no soap in the bathrooms at state parks?

  • Soap is not stocked in public comfort stations at most park locations. Following public health recommendations, park restroom facilities may provide wash/rinse stations and suggest the public wash hands thoroughly for a minimum of 20 seconds, rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds, and rinse.
  • Any oils and debris on hands can be removed through friction and rinsing with water similar to the use of soap.
  • State Parks recommends all visitors visiting state parks to bring their own soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizers when water is not available.

Will my annual park pass be extended due to the park/vehicular access closure?

California State Parks understands your concerns about the annual park passes. Decisions have not been made at this time as to how the department will handle the annual passes but please know that your concerns and questions are noted. Right now, State Parks is focusing on public safety and the state’s response to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your patience, understanding and continued support during these challenging and unprecedented times.

When are you reopening all state parks? Are you working on any plans to reopen parks?

The State of California recognizes the importance of outdoor activities and exercise during this challenging time of COVID-19. As such, California State Parks is working with locals on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access to some state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved.

Just because the stay-at-home order may be modified, it does not mean things are going back to normal. It is critical that Californians continue to stay close to home, practice physical distancing, avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household and abide to new visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented across the state park system to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. State Parks will continue to monitor visitation and physical distancing across the state park system and if unsafe conditions develop, park units may close again.

The reopening of these public outdoor spaces will be made with little advance notice and visitors should expect a different state park experience than they are used to. With 280 park units in the state park system, visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Some state parks units, guided tours, campgrounds, and indoor facilities like museums and visitor centers remain temporarily closed until further notice to prevent overcrowding and maintain physical distancing.

Do you have any tips for recreational boaters?

  • Plan Ahead: Visit the webpage of your local waterway before leaving home to find out if it is open, if parking is available or if any new visitor guidelines are in place. Take a boating safety course to learn the “rules of the road” for boating.
  • Stay Local: Stay close to home. Do not take road trips to California’s waterways or neighboring states. We all have the responsibility to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
  • Boat Only with Your Household: Your party should only include those within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings, picnics or parties.
  • Conduct a Vessel Check: Make sure you have the right safety equipment on board your boat such as life jackets, flares, navigation lights, a horn or whistle, and a first aid kit. Click here to download the virtual safety check form or to schedule a vessel safety check.
  • Stay Clean: Be prepared, not all restrooms at parks or boating facilities are open. Bring soap/sanitizer, especially for use after touching a marina gate or fuel pump. And always pack out your trash.
  • File a Float Plan: Email/text a float plan to a loved one or friend with details of your trip in the event of an emergency.
  • Wear a Life Jacket: Everyone should wear a properly fitted US. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when in or near the water. You never know when an accident may happen, and a life jacket can help save you until search and rescue help can arrive. In swift water, even the strongest swimmers may be easily overwhelmed. By the time a person is struggling in the water, a rescue is extremely unlikely and places the rescuer at risk. Learn More
  • Stay Safe at 6 Feet: Maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Do not raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to other recreators.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Do not drink and boat.
  • Actively Supervise Children: Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention. Do not assume that someone is watching them. Appoint a designated “water watcher,” taking turns with other adults. Teach children that swimming in open water is not the same as swimming in a pool: they need to be aware of uneven surfaces, river currents, ocean undertow and changing weather.
  • Be Cautious in Rivers: Even though this year’s snowpack is below average (37 percent of the May average), rivers will continue to rise as snow melts and will be dangerously cold. Avoid these waterways. If you do fall into a river without a life jacket on, watch this video to help increase your chances of survival.
  • For more water safety information, including boating laws and a boating facility locator on over 1,450 marinas and waterbody managers, please visit dbw.parks.ca.gov/BoatingSafety.

Do you have any tips for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts?

  • Plan Ahead – Visit the webpage of your local or nearby state vehicular recreation areas (SVRA) before leaving home to find out if it is open and what new visitor guidelines are in effect. For example:
    • Entrance stations, staging areas, restrooms and concessions will not be operating at this time
    • Off-highway transport vehicles must be parked approximately 10 feet or more during unloading staging areas. Carrying capacities will be determined by the district superintendent.
    • Shade cabanas adjacent to parking can be utilized only during equipment outfitting and breaks.
    • Off-highway vehicles allowed to operate include:
      • Motorcycles
      • ATVs (single seater)
      • ROV’s (multi-seaters)-only family/cohabitants
      • Jeeps, dune buggies and sand-rails – only family/cohabitants.
  • Stay Local – Stay close to home. Do not take road trips to California’s SVRAs not in proximity to your neighborhood.
  • Stay Safer at 6 Feet – Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Do not ride next to others or pull up next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others. In your riding group, limit the group to people in your immediate household. Only sheltering together can ride together in UTV’s and 4WD. No gatherings, picnics, or parties.
  • Stage Apart – Stage 10 feet or more from each other during unloading and loading.
  • Use Safety Equipment – Use proper equipment such as protective clothing, goggles, a proper helmet, gloves and spark arrestor.
  • Stay Clean – Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer as restrooms may be limited. Keep soap/sanitizer in vehicle.
  • Pack it In – Pack it Out – Facilities may remain closed while trails are open, so do your part to keep outdoor places healthy and accessible for other users.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Do not drink and ride.
  • Natural Resources: Tread lightly and stay on designated trails.
  • Drive with Courtesy: Be prepared to yield any time there is doubt and you can safely do so. Approach curves and hill crests with caution. Assume there are vehicles ahead and slow your driving accordingly. Allow extra room and stopping distance when approaching other vehicles.
  • For more OHV information, please visit ohv.parks.ca.gov.

Do you have free learning resources for families?

State Parks invites the public to explore the nation’s largest State Park System virtually.

  • Many state parks are offering live feeds across their social media platforms, and state parks can also be explored online via Google Street View Treks.
  • For those wishing to view the poppy blooms and other wildflowers in bloom right now at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR, they can view them via a Poppy Cam, which livestreams the current bloom conditions. The park is also showcasing the blooms via 360-degree views and upcoming live feeds on the park’s Facebook platform.
  • Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) Distance Learning Program is offering free home learning programs for families. Programs are now available between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT, Monday through Friday. Each hour focuses on a specific range of grade levels where interpreters will read books and tell stories about their parks, tour iconic museums including Hearst Castle and explore majestic redwood forests and marine protected areas.
    • Families can register for the home learning programs by visiting the new PORTS website www.ports-ca.us. Currently, space is limited to 500 families per program, but thanks to an established partnership with Zoom Video Communications, PORTS will be increasing the spaces available for these webinars in the coming weeks to meet the growing demand.