State Parks Begins Reopening Campgrounds
Last updated: Sept. 18, 2020
The State of California recognizes the benefits of the outdoors during this challenging time of COVID-19. As such, State Parks is working with local officials on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at park units where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. To date, limited public parking is available at 196 park units and 13 park units remain temporarily fully closed.
Some campgrounds have started to reopen with modifications using this phased and regionally driven approach. State Parks is working with local health agencies across the state to determine when campgrounds may reopen and whether they can open at full or reduced capacity.
At this time, 83 state park units (see list below) have opened for camping at various capacity since June 12, 2020. Visitors with existing campground reservations will be notified via email in the case that their reservation must be cancelled in compliance with local and public health orders.
The stay-at-home modifications do not mean things are going back to normal. Governor Newsom’s Stay-at-Home Order asks Californians to stay close to home, maintain physical distancing and avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household. The operations of the park system have been modified to provide an outdoor experience that reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and modifications at each park may vary. Consequently, the public is advised to plan ahead—check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.
Guided tours, many campgrounds, and indoor facilities like museums and visitor centers remain closed until further notice to prevent overcrowding and maintain physical distancing.
For more than 150 years, State Parks has provided opportunities for people from all over the world to connect with families, friends and communities in the nation’s largest state park system. This is the first time in the history of State Parks where safety measures such as vehicular access closures, full closures and cancellation of reservations have been implemented at this large of scale and in response to a pandemic.
State Parks thanks visitors for their partnership as we collectively enable responsible recreation that protects the health of visitors and the dedicated parks staff.
- Plan Ahead – Prior to planning your next local camping adventure, visit the webpage of the park unit to find out if it is open, if camping is available and what new visitor guidelines are in effect. For example, fire rings, barbecues, camp stores, playgrounds and group picnicking facilities may not be available. Each park unit has its own guidelines, depending on county and local health orders.
- Stay Local –Stay close to home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Do not travel if you are sick, or if someone in your household has had coronavirus in the last two weeks.
- Stay Safer at 6 feet -- No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more from others. Your camping party should include those within your immediate household.
- Keep Clean – Be prepared by bringing soap/sanitizer. Not all restrooms will be open. If you are camping in an RV, please use the restrooms in your own unit. This will help reduce the use of the shared restrooms at campgrounds. Leave no trace—pack out all trash.
- Stay Covered – If your county requires the use of face coverings, please wear one. It is recommended that you carry a mask in the outdoors in case you cannot maintain physical distancing from others while hiking or going into a public area.
- How many park units are opening campgrounds? All or just some for now?
At this time, State Parks has reopened campground sites at 83 park units with limited capacity and with new camping guidelines. The department is collaborating with local officials on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at park units where compliance with local and public health orders can be achieved.
- I was notified that camping reservations were cancelled through June 21, 2020. It’s before June 21, and the park that I booked a reservation for is now open for camping. Will my camping reservation be automatically rescheduled?
No. All visitors who want to use campgrounds prior to June 21 will need to make new reservations. Since these park units are not reopening at full capacity at this time, the number of prior reservations exceed the available slots under the current limitations. Restarting the reservation process allows equitable access to available campground slots.
During these unprecedented times, State Parks will continue to adapt its operations across the system to comply with state and local public health orders to mitigate the spread of the virus. It is a dynamic situation across the state.
- If my reservation got cancelled, will I get any special priority when rebooking for a future date?
See answer above.
Will State Parks continue to cancel camping reservations at other state park units that are not reopening now or in the near future?
Yes, cancellations will continue to be made in regions where compliance with local and public health orders cannot be achieved and parks cannot yet reopen.
Affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email and provided with a refund. Cancellation fees are waived. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, 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 questions on reservations, please call ReserveCalifornia's Customer Service line at (800) 444-7275. Hours of operation: 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT.
I have a reservation for a date after June 21 this year. Will my reservation hold or will it be canceled?
Our goal is to reopen as many of the state parks campsites across the state as allowed under state and local public health orders. Reservations are only canceled when necessary to comply with these orders.
Whether your specific reservation will be cancelled depends on whether the campground you have reserved is being open at full capacity by the time of your reservation. If this campground is being opened at full capacity by the date of your reservation, then it is anticipated that reservation will hold. If the campground is not being reopened at full capacity by that date, your reservation may be cancelled. Keep in mind, park openings are a dynamic situation across the state so cancellations remain a possibility in all locations.
Should reservations need to be canceled, affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email and provided with a refund. Cancellation fees are waived. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, 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.
What is State Parks doing to support customer access to the system, lower wait times and smooth website transactions?
ReserveCalifornia’s call center and web support teams are ready to assist Californians as quickly and conveniently as possible, but it is important for the public to understand that the demand for camping sites exceeds the inventory even during regular times. Understanding that the initial demand for reservations is expected to exceed available slots, State Parks appreciates your patience as it manages extremely high volumes of calls and website traffic.
How long should I expect to wait for a response from ReserveCalifornia?
Due to expected high demand via phone calls and web inquiries, customers may experience longer than normal wait times for assistance.
How can reservations be booked for park units reopening campground sites?
New reservations may be booked online at www.ReserveCalifornia.com or via phone at (800) 444-7275. Hours of operation: seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PDT.
Why is my favorite park not open for camping?
State Parks is working with local entities on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. As camping opportunities are made available to the public, State Parks is making sure that the park units can safely accommodate the need for physical distancing and sanitation, and that public health orders can be achieved. It is critical for Californians to continue to recreate responsibly in the outdoors. State Parks thanks you for recreating responsibly in the outdoors.
Will group camping be allowed at this time?
No. Large gatherings are not allowed under current public health orders. Consequently, group camp facilities are currently closed. State Parks is encouraging visitors to camp with their families or those in their immediate household only, and to remain in small groups. Depending on the campsites, groups of six to eight people may be accepted.
Are there any vehicle restrictions? How many vehicles are being allowed per campsite?
A maximum or two (2) licensed vehicles/autos, boat and utility trailers-may be parked at most campsites. Please visit the webpage of your destination for details.
What type of reduced services will I see when I go camping?
Visitors should be aware that State Parks continues to take precautions to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 even as public access is increasing. These measures will vary by park, but in general are intended to limit group gatherings and promote physical distancing. Visitors can anticipate that they may see reduced availability of amenities such as fire rings, barbecues, camp stores, playgrounds and group picnicking facilities. Additionally, all visitor centers remain closed.
Will campground restrooms be cleaned and sanitized? Will the showers be working and available to campers?
State Parks will clean and sanitize the campground restrooms, including showers where available, according to the guidance of local, county and state health departments. In some cases, restrooms will be temporarily closed in order to keep up with cleaning schedules. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own soap and hand sanitizer. Please help us keep public outdoor spaces clean for everyone by packing out all trash.
Will payments still be able to be made with cash or only with credit card and some other form of touchless payment system?
State Parks is accepting cash and credit card and touchless payments via card and mobile devices. Credit card payments for advance camping reservations can also be made online on the ReserveCalifornia website.
Will I still be able to purchase supplies, food, ice, wood, etc. on-site or at the camp store?
These amenities depend on each individual park. Please check the park unit’s webpage for more information on available facilities.
Which park units are now open?
A list of park units that remain fully closed is found online at www.parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve. Visitors are advised to check 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.
Where can people find information about physical distancing restrictions, vehicle occupancy limits, etc.?
Please visit the State Parks COVID-19 Resource Center (www.parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve) to view the new safety guidelines implemented by State Parks to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors. Visitors are also advised to check 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.
How is State Parks providing access for people with disabilities?
State Parks is committed to providing access for people with disabilities even during this unprecedented, challenging time. Should a member of the public encounter an issue at a state park unit, they are being advised to contact the appropriate District Office for support.
Prior to your trip
- Check your vehicle before the trip and make sure it’s in good condition for any mountainous or desert road conditions you may encounter.
- Learn about the types of wildlife to expect in the area by going online to the park’s webpage. Be able to identify poisonous snakes that may be found in the area and any appropriate first aid treatment.
- Make sure your camping equipment is in good shape.
- If you have any medical conditions, check with your health care provider for approval and pack more prescription medication than you might need in case your trip is unexpectedly extended.
- Check your first aid kit to ensure contents have not expired.
- Review the skills, equipment and supplies you’ll need for the recreational activities you’re planning.
- Arrive early so you have plenty of time to check your campsite and set up camp before dark.
At the campsite
- Check your site for potential hazards, such as ant beds, poison oak, nearby cliffs, etc.
- Take precautions to protect your food and equipment from bears and other animals.
- Make sure your tent is at least 15 feet upwind from grills and fires. Maintain at least a 3 feet of clear area around tent, free from leaves and dry grass.
- Use only battery-operated lights in or near tents and never use heaters that emit carbon monoxide in your tent or camping vehicle.
- Mark tent stakes and poles with bright fabrics or tennis balls to avoid tripping.