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5 Things to Know About California National Park Travel Amid COVID-19

 

How to Be an Informed and Mindful Traveler

While the national parks reopening have made us cautiously optimistic about summer travel, we’ve identified 5 essential factors you should consider before you hit the road. And one last thing. Throw your propensity to assume out the window. As we’ve seen during the past two years, there are no guarantees that businesses will stay open, virus cases will go down or stay-at-home orders will be a thing of the past.

1. Every state has its own rules that vary dramatically.

Each state has different quarantine orders that vary dramatically from state to state. Within states, orders can even vary from county to county or town to town. For instance, if you pass through the Navajo Nation, you must wear a face mask.

2. Not everything in the park will be open.

Just because a national park reopens does not mean everything within the park is open. Staffing challenges may mean that there are limited services available. Be sure to check each park website to ensure that the services you need are available. Lastly, avoiding crowds and practicing Leave No Trace principles in the park are more essential now than ever with reduced park staff. We’ve teamed up with organizations and brands across the outdoor industry to help you make smart decisions on recreating to keep yourself and others healthy and to keep access to our beloved public places open. You can read more about how to #RecreateResponsibly.

3. Every town and local business is operating differently in this new normal.

Do advance research on what hotels and restaurants are open and what they are doing to keep customers and employees safe. Some restaurants may only offer take out. Others might have a long waiting list because they have fewer tables because of staffing shortages.  If you have a choice between local businesses and a national chain, consider supporting the local business.

4. Be mindful that you’re a visitor in someone’s hometown.

While you may feel footloose and fancy free after being cooped up for two years, don’t throw caution to the wind. People live in the towns you’re traveling through and they want to feel safe as they open up their economies. Many have tiny medical centers and are miles from the nearest full-service hospital. If a store posts a sign asking all customers to wear face masks, put on your face mask. Be the traveler you’d want to see visiting your town.

5. If you’re sick, stay home.

No one wants to get sick, so if you’re not feeling well or have signs of COVID-19, stay at home or if you’re on the road, head home immediately. Travel when you’re healthy.

Yosemite

Yosemite is open, but it is requiring park reservations for day visits. You can go to recreation.gov to make your reservations.

In addition to your park pass, you’ll need a special reservation to get into Yosemite National Park this year, beginning May 20 through Sept. 30, 2022. The park started selling 70% of reservation slots March 23 for those who want to enter the park between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, but there’s still time for you to secure a reservation. Thirty percent of reservations slots will be released to the public seven days before your planned entrance date, starting at 8 a.m. PST. 

Don’t have reservations? Don’t worry. Enter the park before 6 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Or go on a guided day trip with a park outfitter. You can also enter if you have lodging or campground reservations in the park. 

If you have an annual or lifetime pass at the time of your reservation,  you still need to pay for a day-use reservation ($2).

Visitors with an overnight reservation in the park (campground, lodging or wilderness permit holders) will not need a day use reservation.

Starting May 21, 2021, a wilderness permit will be required for all overnight big wall climbers. During this pilot, wilderness permits for climbers will be free. There are no quotas on the number of permits available. Your application must be submitted between 15 and 4 days before your entry date. Park staff will review applications and respond within 48 hours. 

You must pick-up your permit in person at either the wilderness climbing permit desk behind Valley Visitor Center (7:30 a.m. to noon through Oct. 31) or at El Capitan Meadow (12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., May 15 to July 4 and Sept. 1 to Oct. 31) at the daily Ask A Climber program. 

For more on policies and regulations, please visit the Yosemite Climbing Permits Page 

If you have any climbing specific questions, you can contact the park directly through email or by phone at 209/354-2025. 

All visitors planning trips to Yosemite are asked to be a partner in recreating responsibly. Yosemite National Park conducts thousands of search and rescue missions each year, many of which could be avoided with visitors planning and making responsible decisions.

Please follow these #RecreateResponsibly tips:

-Adopt social distancing practices and stay at least 6 feet from people

outside your household unit

-Wear a face covering when social distancing cannot be maintained.

-Stay on the trail, for your safety and the safety of others

-Stay within your limits. Yosemite is a great place to find outdoor adventure, but please don’t push your self beyond your physical limits.

For more details, please visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm.

To follow additional closures or changes with the status of the park, visit the Yosemite news site. www.nps.gov/yose/learn/news/

For camping reservations, alerts and closures, visit Recreation.gov here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2991

Follow the park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YosemiteNPS

In the meanwhile, the park staff is advising travelers to enjoy Yosemite virtually by downloading the park’s free App at www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/app.htm and through the park’s webcams at www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are open. The John Muir Lodge is open. However, the Cedar Grove Lodge is expected to open in May 2022. Grant Grove Cabins are closed in Kings Canyon as is the Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia.

For up-to-date details on lodging, food services and cmapgrounds, visit Delaware North’s website or contact the reservations number: (866) 807-3598.

To get up-to-date news, go to the Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks news site. www.nps.gov/seki/learn/news/

Follow the park on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SequoiaKingsNPS/

For camping or the Crystal Cave Tour in Sequoia National Park go here: www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2931

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park is open. Island Packers, the authorized boat transportation concessionaire to Channel Islands National Park, is offering its full-service schedule  to the Channel Islands.

Island Packers offers service to Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and Anacapa Islands for both day visitors and campers from Ventura Harbor Village and Oxnard Harbor with three-hour island wildlife trips and six-hour whale watching trips. Although reservations are being accepted, current conditions necessitate that all transportation plans could be subject to change.

Only one member of each party will be allowed into the office for checking in. Customers in the Ventura office will be limited to a maximum of 5 at a time.  No consumption of personal food and beverage items in the office or in retail spaces.

All crew and passengers 3 years of age and older are required to wear a face covering, under three years (infants) are not required to wear a mask.Passengers will be assigned a seating area by an Island Packer crew member. Passenger seating preference will be accommodated as best as possible. Vessels are sanitized throughout the day. Hand sanitizers stations available on board. All boarding passes will be sanitized before and after use.

Island Packers will continue to monitor the directives from health officials and to always prioritize the safety and well-being of our customers and crew.  More information is available at www.islandpackers.com or by calling Island Packers at 805-642-1393. The office will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for information and reservations.

The park staff encourage you to visit Channel Islands Live at www.nps.gov/chis/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm where you can experience the kelp forest virtually. It’s one of the richest marine environments in the world.

To get up-to-date news, go to www.nps.gov/chis/learn/news/.

Follow Channel Islands on Facebook at www.facebook.com/channelislandsnps.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is open as are all regularly open park roads, trailheads and overlooks. Examples: Dantes View, Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, Artist’s Drive, Devils Hole, Ubehebe Crater, Racetrack, Mesquite Dunes, Salt Creek, Devil’s Golf Course, Harmony Borax, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Darwin Falls, Father Crowley Vista, Emigrant, Wildrose, Telescope Peak, and all unpaved roads.

CLOSED:

  • Bonnie Claire road and Scotty’s Castle remain closed due to 2015 flood damage and later a fire.
  • The Saline Valley Warm Spring soaking tubs remain closed to entry.

Visitors can continue to enjoy Death Valley National Park online through videos, including the series “Death Valley Explorer.” These can be found at the park website at www.nps.gov/deva/learn/photosmultimedia/.

Get Death Valley’s most up-to-date alerts at www.nps.gov/deva/learn/news/.

Follow the park on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/DeathValleyNPS

Only Furnace Creek Campground takes advanced campground reservations. Find out updates on it at Recreation.gov here www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232496

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is open.

Get Joshua Tree’s most up-to-date information at www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.

Other National Parks and National Park Sites

The National Park Service has been updating its COVID-19 page daily with information about individual parks. You can visit it here: www.nps.gov/aboutus/news/public-health-update.htm

Updates about nationwide NPS operations are posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.