Southern Californians are still under orders to stay close to home and cover their faces outdoors, but the mid-May reopening of Los Angeles city and county trails, L.A. County beaches and Angeles National Forest trails, followed by Joshua Tree National Park, means new room to move for millions in this region.
The re-openings come with many strings attached, including required face coverings in many areas, forbidden gatherings and closed parking lots, piers and beach boardwalks; those details vary by city. L.A. County public health officials, struggling to reduce the largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the western U.S., expect many restrictions will stay in place through the summer.
The essential weekly guide to enjoying the outdoors in Southern California. Insider tips on the best of our beaches, trails, parks, deserts, forests and mountains.
But as local, state and federal agencies loosen some reins while holding tight to others, the rules on public lands are changing almost daily.
•The Orange County cities of Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach are extending their beach hours for the Memorial Day weekend and reopening many beach-adjacent parking lots are re-opening.
•The Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles on May 16 reopened 23 popular trails, four trail heads and 19 roads in the San Gabriel Mountains but will have social distancing requirements. Forest officials also will begin gradually reopening campgrounds, picnic areas and other “developed recreation” sites off-limits since early April.
“Within the next week we’ll have some of the campgrounds open,” said spokesman Nathan Judy. “Within the next month, hopefully a majority of them.” He said campers would be able to check the forest’s website beginning Friday for updates on the status of individual campgrounds and picnic areas.
Judy suggested that hikers bring a little more water than usual (because some sources may be dry) and make more noise so other hikers can keep an appropriate distance.
• Though Los Angeles city trails, trail-head parks and golf courses reopened May 9, though crowd-prone Runyon Canyon Park remains closed.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti continues to warn that people shouldn’t congregate in groups larger than a single household, that maintaining physical distance is vital and that wearing a face covering outside while outside your home and car is required.
For the moment, L.A. County’s pandemic restrictions are largely shaped by the county’s Safer at Home order.
This list is designed to help readers keep track of beach restrictions.
Here’s an update on what’s happening where. If you do go outside for a walk, remember these tips for keeping safe. Local and state officials emphasize the need to take greater care in maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others.
Los Angeles city parks, beaches and markets
Griffith Park reopened its trails May 9. All city recreation centers, aquatic facilities, skate parks, tennis courts, playgrounds, baseball fields, soccer fields and basketball courts remain closed as are other “indoor and outdoor sport amenities.”
In Griffith Park, authorities have closed facilities including the observatory, Travel Town, train rides, the pony rides, the merry-go-round and some roads.
Elsewhere, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro remains closed, as is the Sherman Oaks Castle, the Expo Center in Exposition Park and the Silver Lake Meadow.
About 24 farmers markets are open in the city, including the Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market, after the city tightened safety and social-distancing requirements in early April.
Los Angeles County trails, beaches and parks
In L.A. County, as in San Diego, Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, beaches are open for active use — surfing, swimming, running and walking. But they are generally closed to sunbathing, gatherings larger than one household and organized sports. In many cases, beach-adjacent parking lots remain closed.
L.A. County local, community and regional parks are open, as are trails and golf courses that reopened (with safety measures) on May 9. The county also reopened tennis and pickleball courts, archery and shooting ranges, equestrian centers and community gardens on May 13.
Though county beaches are open, Los Angeles County’s piers, beach bike paths and most beach-adjacent parking lots are also closed under an order that covers beaches in every coastal city and unincorporated area of the county.
County parks’ play and sports amenities, including playgrounds, also remain closed.
Parks officials noted on their website that “you can still enjoy time outdoors at your local park for...walking, jogging or leisure time outdoors for individuals or families. Social distancing is still required, and group gatherings are prohibited by the health order.”
The Safer at Home order from Los Angeles County Public Health officials prohibits public and private group events and gatherings. It also allows individuals and families to hike, walk and bike as long as they keep their distance from others.
The order also notes that if local entities (such as municipal governments) impose stricter limits, the county order does not supersede them. Although Los Angeles County has loosened limits on some retailers, indoor and outdoor playgrounds remain closed.
•Catalina Island Co. on May 14 reopened moorings to all boaters at Two Harbors and areas from White’s Landing to Emerald Bay. The Two Harbors General Store is open as is the West End Galley (for meals and drinks to go).
State parks in Southern California
Since mid-March, state parks officials have closed all state campgrounds, then closed vehicle access to the entire state park system, then fully closed more than 60 parks.
Since then, however, the state has partly reopened about half of those, leaving the state with dozens of open parks neighbored by closed parking lots. Before you visit any state park, check its status with the state.
Just four state parks are entirely closed in Los Angeles County: the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve; Los Encinos State Historic Park; Pio Pico State Historic Park; and Watts Towers (Simon Rodia State Historic Park).
The popular Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in the Baldwin Hills area of L.A. is open, as is its parking lot. (The vehicle entrance fee is $6 on weekends and holiday, free on weekdays.) Playgrounds and picnic areas in the park are still taped off.
San Gabriel Valley
•Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Loop, the 3.1-mile- walking path around the famed stadium, reopened May 13.
•The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino is closed until further notice, but it is “actively working on reopening plans,” its website said Tuesday.
•Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge reopened May 16; tickets must be purchased in advance.
•The L.A. Arboretum in Arcadia is open (reservations required).
Santa Monica Mountains
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which straddles Los Angeles and Ventura counties, has reopened most of its trails, parking lots, overlooks and restrooms. Its two visitor centers remain closed, as does Solstice Canyon, and some areas damaged by the Woolsey Fire in 2018, and its parking lots along Pacific Coast Highway. Like other agencies, the National Park Service urges hikers to wear face coverings and keep their distance from others.
Also, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority has reopened most of its parks, trails, parking lots and restrooms. The authority manages more than 75,000 acres of open space, much of it owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Other coastal counties
•Ventura County has allowed the opening of beaches (as long as visitors keep their distance and don’t linger), golf courses and bike shops.
•Orange County has reopened its beaches with restrictions. As in L.A. and Ventura counties, many beach-adjacent parking lots remain closed, but policies are evolving. This list covers the beaches and piers city by city.
•San Diego County reopened its county-run beaches April 27 to swimming, surfing, kayaking and paddle-boarding but not group activities, sunbathing or boating. City-by-city details are covered in this list. Most of San Diego County’s parks and preserves have remained open for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, but their parking lots and many facilities and amenities are closed.
• San Bernardino County on April 25 reopened county parks, lakes, rivers and recreation areas. “Private and city-owned parks, trails, lakes and golf courses also opened on a limited basis,” the L.A. Times’ Luke Money reports. Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and Mojave River Forks Regional Park are still closed.
National forests in Southern California
The U.S. Forest Service closed campgrounds, picnic areas, bathrooms and other developed recreation sites in its California forests, but is gradually reopening them, leaving Southern California’s four forests — Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino — to make their own decisions on trail access and parking.
• In the Angeles National Forest, the areas reopened May 16 include trail heads for Millard Canyon above Altadena; San Antonio Falls; Icehouse Canyon; and North Devil’s Backbone.
Also reopened: trails to Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe, such as the Sam Merrill Trail, above Altadena; as well as others leading to Mt. Wilson, San Gabriel Peak, the Rim Trail and other routes in the San Gabriel Mountains.
A spokesman said the Forest Service hadn’t issued any citations during the week closure and that “we have not seen a lot of problems.”
• In the San Bernardino National Forest, whose 680,000 acres include four mountain ranges in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, a spokesman said trails, trail heads, staging areas that function as trail heads and parking areas at trail heads remain open. Hikers should practice social distancing, sticking to wide fire roads instead of single-track trails that are too narrow, the spokesman said.
• In Los Padres National Forest, which includes about 1.95 million acres reaching north from Ventura County into Central California, spokesman Andrew Madsen said trail head parking and trails remain open, as do dispersed camp sites in the back country.
In the forest’s Trabuco ranger district, closures include: El Cariso north/south picnic area; Hot Springs trail head; San Juan loop trail head; Tenaja trail head; Trabuco creek picnic area; Wildomar staging area; Maple Springs day-use area.
In the forest’s Descanso Ranger District, closures include Agua Dulce; Bear Valley OHV (off-highway vehicle) area; and Corral Canyon.
In the forest’s Palomar Ranger District, closures include Crestline; Henshaw scenic vista; Inaja Memorial; Kica Mik Overlook; Palomar Mountain Interpretive Station; San Luis Rey Picnic Area; Fry Creek Trailhead; Observatory Trailhead; and Barker Valley Trailhead. The popular Cedar Creek Falls and Three Sisters Falls trails have been closed since March 21.
National parks in California
Though the National Park Service has been gradually reopening its parks in other states, California’s most popular parks have just begun to reopen. Joshua Tree reopened its roads, trails and individual campsites (but not its visitors centers) on May 17.
Still shut: Yosemite National Park (which may open in June); Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks until at least May 25; and Death Valley National Park (except for California 190 and Daylight Pass) since April 4.
The Eastern Sierra
Charlton H. Bonham, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife director, postponed the April 25 start of trout season in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties to May 31.