joshua tree national park reopen
You're allowed to go back to Joshua Tree. Whether you'd want to — at least in June — is a different question.
Pablo Heimplatz
By Diane Rommel / June 12, 2020 8:13 am

California’s national parks are reopening … fitfully. 

Personally, we’ll content ourselves with 1,000 more laps around our block until the dust has settled, but if you’re itching for some adventure and willing to brave intermittent but still-widespread closures, canceled programs and overgrown, possibly tick-ridden trails (see: Point Reyes), there’s plenty to do. 

Yosemite — inarguably our best national park unless you hate crowds, in which case it is a very beautiful hellscape — announced its phased reopening earlier this week. As you’d expect, the results were chaotic. Capacity is capped at 50 percent and you’ll need a day pass to get through the gates, which is exclusively available through recreation.gov for $35. We’d love to tell you that the res process was smooth and that they’re available at your leisure … but obviously that would be a lie. You can try again on July 1 for single-day entries in August. No overnights, so leave the tent at home. 

Given that, you might want to pencil another date into your schedule. Reservations for camping cabins at the perennially under-visited Lassen Volcanic National Park go up for grabs on Friday. Yosemite’s great — but does it have burbling sulfurous hot pots?

A full breakdown of what to know about each and every California park, below.

Yosemite National Park waterfall
Yosemite National Park
Brittney Burnett/Unsplash

Channel Islands National Park


The Channel Islands are open. Getting there will be slightly more difficult than usual, given that passenger capacity on the ferries has been reduced to 40 percent. Ongoing construction has further closed several facilities, including Scorpion Anchorage and the visitor center in Ventura Harbor. 

Death Valley


All of Death Valley is closed — and will stay that way until all of California is at Stage 3. (We got to Stage 2 on May 8.) TBH, Death Valley sucks in July and August (fight me), so here’s hoping they’ll be ready when the weather cools off. 

Golden Gate National Recreation Area


Many of the GGNRA sites in San Francisco are open, including Baker Beach and China Beach, while more staff-intensive locations — including Alcatraz, Fort Point and assorted visitor centers — are shut. In Marin, most everything is closed — including Muir Woods, the Marin Headlands, the Point Bonita lighthouse, all campgrounds and many parking areas (including Tennessee Valley, Fort Baker and Rodeo Beach). 

golden gate national recreation area
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Paulius Dragunas/Unsplash

Joshua Tree


Joshua Tree’s trails and family campgrounds have been open since late May, though group campgrounds, visitor centers and visitor programs are canceled. Campground reservations, usually available through recreation.gov, are suspended. Everything’s first come, first served until Labor Day weekend (September 4), when temperatures cool. If you do go, keep an eye on the heat advisories next week, as they’ll likely crack 100. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park


Much of Lassen reopened in late May, though the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and Loomis Museum are closed. Manzanita Lake’s camping cabins reopen on 6/12 (reserve via reservations.gov), with more opening throughout June. BYO supplies, water, food and gas. Hiking trails are open, as is the Lassen Volcanic Park Highway. 

Pinnacles National Park


Pinnacles is open, though subject to the same overcrowding issues as usual. The western entrance reopened to vehicular traffic in late May but will close once parking spaces within the park are exhausted; the eastern entrance, at Paicines, will be open to visitors traveling by foot and bike (as well as drivers with a campground reservation). Some trails — including sections of the popular High Peaks trail — are closed, as are the visitor and nature centers.

Lassen Volcanic National Park reopens
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Patrick Bosiger/Unsplash

Point Reyes National Seashore


Our favorite park is mostly closed for the moment. Camping’s verboten and many of the park’s roads are shut, for reasons including construction and fire risk: Chimney Rock Road, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard as you get close to the ocean, and Mount Vision Road. (There’s a sufficient number of road closures that they’ve prepared this map detailing them.) Trails, meanwhile, have been impacted by erosion, flooding, downed trees, overgrowth and ticks. 

Redwood State and National Park


Campgrounds and visitor centers are closed; permits for backcountry access are not available. Trails are open, though many have suffered damage and some have partial closures for repairs. Scenic trails, including Coastal Drive, Bald Hills Road and Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway are all open. 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon Parks


Much of the park opened last week, including roads, trails, picnic areas and restrooms. Still closed are campgrounds, visitor centers, bookstores and other concessions. Overnight wilderness permits will be available (and will be honored, if you already have one), but only available online — there’s no walk-up availability this season.