Open with caveat

The Utah Trail entrance to Joshua Tree National Park was not staffed but was allowing free entrance to the park Monday, May 18. Drivers were cautioned to watch out for tortoises.

TWENTYNINE PALMS —  Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Joshua Tree National Park is increasing recreational access.

The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

Joshua Tree National Park has reopened access to:  

•    Park entrances

•    Roads and parking lots

•    Trails

•    Family campsites and backcountry camping

•    Some bathroom facilities

With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed at this time:

•    Visitor centers

•    Group campsites

Entrance station booths are not staffed, but entrances are open

“With the lower summertime visitation numbers in mind, we have worked closely with the health offices in both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to ensure that the type of recreation at Joshua Tree is in line with current health advisories.” park superintendent David Smith said.

“By opening the park in phases, we plan on being able to take measured steps that ensure the safety of our staff and visitors while providing increased access to our National Park. “

To keep the park open, officials will need the public’s help to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

•    Enjoy the outdoor recreation areas around your local community.

•    Visit with members of your household only.

•    Practice social distancing by maintaining six feet of distance between you and anyone outside of your household.

•    Avoid crowded areas.

•    Bring hand sanitizer, a mask, and other items to stay clean and safe. There are no hand sanitizing stations within the park and most of the restroom facilities do not have running water.

•    Maintain space while passing others on a trail. The loop trails in the park, like Barker Dam and Hidden Valley, will be one-way only.

Family campsites are open, but it is recommended that only members of the same household camp together.

All 520 sites are first-come, first-served.

Backcountry camping is open, but park officials ask that you camp in small groups with only members from your household.

In addition to health safety, Joshua Tree officials would like to remind the public about park specific safety:

•    Drive slowly. Wildlife have become accustomed to the park without traffic and are spending more time on the road.

•    The summer temperatures in the park can be deadly. Keep your visit short, bring plenty of water and avoid the hottest parts of the day.

•    Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan on leaving.

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders from San Bernardino County and Riverside County, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Officials will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.   

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on our website www.nps.gov/jotr and social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

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