“We were pleased to not have as much crowding as we did when the park first began decreasing access in March.”

By Cailey Rizzo
May 20, 2020

California’s Joshua Tree has partially reopened to the public on Sunday in a "phased approach," permitting visitors to return to the national park.

“People were excited to see the park again,” a for the park spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times this week. “We were pleased to not have as much crowding as we did when the park first began decreasing access in March.”

All park entrances, roads, and parking lots are now open. To reduce contact between park employees and visitors, they will not be collecting fees at the park’s entrances and visitor centers and group campsites at Joshua Tree remain closed to the public.

trail marked with social distancing signs
Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

Unlike most other national parks, Joshua Tree’s reopening will allow for some camping. While group campsites will remain closed, family and individual sites are open. Campers can pay for their location as normal, following the instructions posted at each site. All 520 of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Although the trails are open, certain access points have been cut off, allowing for more social distancing. Visitors will find signs posted instructing them to step aside off a trail if they come across another hiker.

visitors wear face masks at a lookout point
Credit: Mario Tama/Getty

The park’s superintendent, David Smith, told local news that the phased reopening was planned according to Riverside and San Bernardino County public health official orders.

"It was done based on their recommendations on what are safe activities that people can engage in inside a national park such as sightseeing, hiking on a trail, camping with your family or your household," Smith told KESQ News. "Those are all defined as safe ways to enjoy your park right now."

There are still a few rules and precautions visitors should consider before heading to the park and other national parks that are starting to reopen.

The National Park Service recommends only visiting with members of your household at this time. Bring hand sanitizer, face masks, and plenty of water. Those in cars should drive slowly and with caution as the park’s wildlife became more active during the weeks that humans were away.