Frequently Asked Questions - State Parks and COVID-19

Updated: Dec. 7, 2020

With the new Regional Stay at Home Order, how do I know if my camping reservation will be cancelled?

Whether your specific reservation will be canceled depends on whether the campground you have reserved is located within one of the impacted regions. If the campsite is within an impacted region, your reservation will be canceled possibly with little advance notice due to the critical need to stop the COVID-19 surge. Affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email and provided with a refund. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, visitors do not need to take any action. However, please note that due to the volume of visitors affected, the refund process may take some time. Thank you for your patience and understanding during these unprecedented times.

Reservation holders can call ReserveCalifornia’s Customer Service line at 1-800-444-7275. Hours of operation: 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST.

Does the Regional Stay at Home Order impact parking at parks or beaches?

No, but the public is advised that temporary measures such as restricting vehicular access at park units may be implemented to reduce overcrowding. We must all do our part to keep California healthy. Visitors are being asked to leave if there are too many people to allow for the required physical distance.

Are parks being closed due to the Regional Stay at Home Order?

Day use outdoor areas of park units currently open to the public will remain accessible, including trails, beaches, and for OHV and boating activities.

While the new Regional Stay at Home Order is asking Californians to stay home as much as possible and for campground sites in impacted regions to close, the state also recognizes that mental health is physical health. As such, we welcome you to recreate in the outdoors provided that you stay local, plan ahead to find out what is open, wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and avoid gatherings with people outside the immediate household.

When does the Regional Stay at Home Order go into effect?

  • The public health order takes effect at 12:59 p.m. on December 5. Thereafter, if a region falls below the 15 percent ICU threshold, it will have 24 hours to implement the Regional Stay at Home Order.
  • Regions will remain in the new status for at least three weeks once triggered.
  • Counties are eligible to come off the Regional State at Home Order after three weeks if their hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15 percent.
  • For detailed information on the new order, please visit covid19.ca.gov.

Governor Newsom implemented a curfew starting November 21 through December 21. Does the curfew affect my camping experience at state parks?

Governor Newsom’s announcement on the limited Stay at Home Order curfew currently does not have any operational impacts to camping in California’s state parks. Campsites have standard quiet and curfew hours. Additionally, current guidelines within the State Parks System do not allow visitors to congregate with others outside their immediate household. 

Below are some additional guidelines for recreating safely in California’s State Park System:

  • Stay Local – Stay close to home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Do not travel if you or someone in your household is sick.
  • Plan Ahead – The COVID-19 pandemic response continues to be dynamic and fluid. Prior to leaving home, check the webpage of the park unit you plan to visit to find out if it is open, if parking is available, and what visitor guidelines are in effect.
  • Stay Safer at 6 feet -- No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Your guests should only include those within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties. Visitors are being asked to leave if there are too many people to allow for the required physical distance.
    • Boating: Do not raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to other recreators.
    • Off-highway Vehicle Recreation: Do not ride next to others or pull up next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others. Stage 10 feet or more from each other during unloading and loading.
  • Keep Clean – Be prepared. Not all restrooms are open to the public. in some cases, restrooms will be temporarily closed to keep up with cleaning schedules. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash. Park units are experiencing heavy use and you can help alleviate the impact on park facilities.  
    • Camping: If you are camping in an RV, please use the restrooms in your own unit. This will help reduce the use of the shared restrooms at campgrounds.
  • Stay Covered – The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain physical distancing of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times. For details, please visit www.covid19.ca.gov.

State Parks will continue to monitor visitation and physical distancing across the State Park System and if unsafe conditions develop, park units may close again.

What is California State Parks doing to protect the public?
The State of California recognizes the benefits of the outdoors during this challenging time of COVID-19. As such, State Parks has been working with local officials on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at park units where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. The reopening of state park units will be made with little advance notice.

Governor Newsom’s Stay-at-Home Order asks Californians to stay close to home, maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering and avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household. The operations of the park system have been modified to provide an outdoor experience that reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and modifications at each park may vary. Consequently, the public is advised to plan ahead—check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

The department thanks you for recreating responsibly in the outdoors.

To date, State Parks has temporarily implemented the following safety measures:

  • Closed some parks fully, meaning all vehicular access, trails and restrooms within these parks are closed.
  • Some state parks and beaches have no vehicle access, meaning no parking facilities and parking on roadways is prohibited. Some state parks and beaches may have limited vehicle access available.
  • Some campgrounds are still temporarily closed. Most campgrounds have started to reopen with modifications using this phased and regionally driven approach
  • Some museums and visitor centers have started to reopen with limited capacity modifications using this phased and regionally driven approach, meanwhile some museums and visitor centers remain temporarily closed. Visitors are advised to visit the park webpage for details. 
  • All events were canceled. New event cancellations or requests to postpone already-approved events are not being accepted at this time.

What does “fully closed parks” mean for the public?
Park units temporarily fully closed means there is no public access at these public outdoor spaces. All beaches, trails and restrooms within these parks are closed. Additionally, there are no parking facilities for visitors, including for off-highway vehicles and recreational boats. A list of the full closures is available online (view list). This list is dynamic and is updated with new information as it becomes available. The public is urged to check with their local and county authorities on their park closures.

Are ALL 280 state parks are closed to vehicular traffic?
No. California State Parks is working with locals on a phased and regionally driven approach to increase access to some state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved.

As a reminder, the stay-at-home order modifications do not mean things are going back to normal. Visitors should expect a different state park experience than they are used to. The public is advised to plan ahead—check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

What is currently open? Are trails open where there are parking lot closures?

Governor Newsom’s stay-at-home order still asks Californians to stay close to home, practice physical distancing and avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household.

Additionally, Californians are encouraged to check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Please remember to respect the landscapes by staying on designated trails, not picking flowers, taking only photos and packing out all your trash if no trash bins are available.

Are boat launching ramps also closed? 
Most boat launching facilities have opened. Visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Will State Parks eventually be closing all parks during these challenging times?
At this time, there are no plans to close all state parks. On the contrary, State Parks is working with locals on a phased and regionally driven approach to increase access to state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. The reopening of state park units will be made with little advance notice.

How many park units are opening campgrounds? All or just some for now?
At this time, State Parks has reopened campground sites at 83 park units with limited capacity and with new camping guidelines. The department is collaborating with local officials on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at park units where compliance with local and public health orders can be achieved.

The public is advised to visit www.parks.ca.gov/COVID19Camping and/or the individual park unit webpage for camping information.

Will State Parks continue to cancel camping reservations at other state park units that are not reopening now or in the near future?

Yes, cancellations will continue to be made in regions where compliance with local and public health orders cannot be achieved and parks cannot yet reopen.

Affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email and provided with a refund. Cancellation fees are waived. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, visitors do not need to take any action. However, please note that due to the volume of visitors affected, the refund process may take some time. State Parks appreciates the patience of the public as it moves through this process.

For questions on reservations, please call ReserveCalifornia's Customer Service line at (800) 444-7275. Hours of operation: 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST.

What is State Parks doing to ensure customer access to the system, lower wait times and smooth website transactions?
ReserveCalifornia’s call center and web support teams are ready to assist Californians as quickly and conveniently as possible, but it is important for the public to understand that the demand for camping sites exceeds the inventory even during regular times. Understanding that the initial demand for reservations is expected to exceed available slots, State Parks appreciates your patience as it manages extremely high volumes of calls and website traffic.

How long should I expect to wait for a response from ReserveCalifornia?
Due to expected high demand via phone calls and web inquiries, customers may experience longer than normal wait times for assistance.

How can reservations be booked for park units reopening campground sites?
New reservations may be booked online at www.ReserveCalifornia.com or via phone at (800) 444-7275. Hours of operation: seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST.

Why is my favorite park not open for camping?
State Parks is working with local entities on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. As camping opportunities are made available to the public, State Parks is making sure that the park units can safely accommodate the need for physical distancing and sanitation, and that public health orders can be achieved. It is critical for Californians to continue to recreate responsibly in the outdoors. State Parks thanks you for recreating responsibly in the outdoors.

Will group camping be allowed at this time?
No. Large gatherings are not allowed under current public health orders. Consequently, group camp facilities are currently closed. State Parks is encouraging visitors to camp with their families or those in their immediate household only, and to remain in small groups. Depending on the campsites, groups of six to eight people may be accepted.

Are there any vehicle restrictions? How many vehicles are being allowed per campsite?
A maximum or two (2) licensed vehicles/autos, boat and utility trailers-may be parked at most campsites. Please visit the webpage of your destination for details.

What type of reduced services will I see when I go camping?
Visitors should be aware that State Parks continues to take precautions to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 even as public access is increasing. These measures will vary by park, but in general are intended to limit group gatherings and promote physical distancing. Visitors can anticipate that they may see reduced availability of amenities such as fire rings, barbecues, camp stores, playgrounds and group picnicking facilities. Additionally, all visitor centers remain closed.

Will restrooms be cleaned and sanitized? Will the showers be working and available to campers?
State Parks will clean and sanitize the restrooms, including showers where available, according to the guidance of local, county and state health departments. In some cases, restrooms will be temporarily closed in order to keep up with cleaning schedules. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own soap and hand sanitizer. Please help us keep public outdoor spaces clean for everyone by packing out all trash.

Will payments still be able to be made with cash or only with credit card and some other form of touchless payment system?
State Parks is accepting cash and credit card and touchless payments via card and mobile devices. Credit card payments for advance camping reservations can also be made online on the ReserveCalifornia website.

Will I still be able to purchase supplies, food, ice, wood, etc., on-site or at the camp store?
These amenities depend on each individual park. Please check the park unit’s webpage for more information on available facilities.

Which park units are now open?
A list of park units that remain fully closed is found online at www.parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve. Visitors are advised to check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Where can people find information about physical distancing restrictions, vehicle occupancy limits, etc.?
Please visit the State Parks COVID0-19 Resource Center (www.parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve) to view the new safety guidelines implemented by State Parks to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors. Visitors are also advised to check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

How is State Parks providing access for people with disabilities?
State Parks is committed to providing access for people with disabilities even during this unprecedented, challenging time. Should a member of the public encounter an issue at a state park unit, they are being advised to contact the appropriate District Office for support.

What are some basic protocols to minimize the possible transmission of COVID-19 when outdoors?
Here are some visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors:

  • Plan Ahead – Prior to leaving home, check the webpage of the park unit you plan to visit to find out if it is open, if parking is available, if camping reservations can be booked and what visitor guidelines are in effect.
  • Stay Local – Even though businesses around the state are opening up, stay close to home. Parking is very limited or non-existent at park units across the state. Walk or bike to parks in your local neighborhood. Do not travel if you are sick or if someone in your household has had coronavirus in the last two weeks.
  • Stay Safer at 6 feet -- No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Your guests should only include those within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings, picnics or parties. Visitors are being asked to leave if there are too many people to allow for the required physical distance.
    • Boating: Do not raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to other recreators.
    • Off-highway Vehicle Recreation: Do not ride next to others or pull up next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others. Stage 10 feet or more from each other during unloading and loading.
  • Keep Clean – Be prepared. Not all restrooms are open to the public. Bring soap/sanitizer and pack out all trash.
    • Camping: If you are camping in an RV, please use the restrooms in your own unit. This will help reduce the use of the shared restrooms at campgrounds.
  • Stay Covered – If your county requires the use of face coverings, please wear one. It is recommended that you carry a mask in the outdoors in case you cannot maintain physical distancing from others while hiking or going into a public area.

State Parks will continue to monitor visitation and physical distancing across the State Park System and if unsafe conditions develop, park units may close again.

Will my annual park pass be extended due to the park/vehicular access closure?
State Parks thanks all who purchased annual passes last past year and have been unable to use them during the last three months due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and its statewide impact. The department is extending annual passes for three (3) months to those pass holders meeting the below criteria.

Annual Pass Expired or will Expire:

Extension through:

Expired March 1, 2020 - June 30, 2020

September 30, 2020

Expires July 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021

+3 months


This extension applies to the following annual passes:

  • California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass (Hangtag)
  • California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass (Hangtag)
  • Centennial Redwood "Golden Poppy" Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass (Hangtag)
  • Tahoe Regional Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass (Hangtag)
  • Historian Passport Day Use Annual Pass (Wallet Card)
  • Boat Use Annual Pass (Hangtag or Sticker)
  • Oversized Vehicle Pass (Hangtag or Sticker)
  • Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass (Hangtag)
  • Limited Use Golden Bear Pass

All other terms and conditions of your will pass remain in effect.

If you have any questions, please contact the Park Pass Sales Office at ParkPassInfo@parks.ca.gov or (800) 777-0369 ext. 2 or (916) 653-8280. You may also contact your nearest State Park District Office. Thank you for your continued patronage to the State Park System.

When will all state parks reopen? Is State Parks working on any plans to reopen parks?
At this time, it is unknown when the State Park System will fully reopen. The State of California recognizes the benefits of the outdoors during this challenging time of COVID-19. As such, State Parks is working with local officials on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access at park units where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. To date, over 200 park units are open and 13 park units remain temporarily fully closed. Additionally, campgrounds have started to reopen with modifications using this phased and regionally driven approach. The Department is working with local health agencies across the state to determine when campgrounds may reopen and whether they can open at full or reduced capacity.

The stay-at-home modifications do not mean things are going back to normal. Governor Newsom’s Stay-at-Home Order asks Californians to stay close to home, maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering and avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household. The operations of the park system have been modified to provide an outdoor experience that reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and modifications at each park may vary. Consequently, the public is advised to plan ahead—check the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new guidelines are in effect and if parking is available.

Are there any tips for recreational boaters and off-highway vehicle riders?
For safety tips for various outdoor recreational activities, please visit www.parks.ca.gov/SafetyTips.

Is State Parks offering any free learning resources for families?
State Parks invites the public to explore the nation’s largest State Park System virtually. Here are different ways to do so:

  • Many state parks are offering live feeds across their social media platforms, and state parks can also be explored online via Google Street View Treks.
  • For those wishing to view livestreams from various park units across the state, please our live video gallery.
  • Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) Distance Learning Program is offering free home learning programs for families. Programs are now available between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT, Monday through Friday. Each hour focuses on a specific range of grade levels where interpreters will read books and tell stories about their parks, tour iconic museums including Hearst Castle and explore majestic redwood forests and marine protected areas. Families can register for the home learning programs by visiting the new PORTS website, www.ports-ca.us. Currently, space is limited to 500 families per program, but thanks to an established partnership with Zoom Video Communications, PORTS will be increasing the spaces available for these webinars in the coming weeks to meet the growing demand.

Are the elephant seals winter tour seasons (2020/2021) suspended due to the ongoing pandemic?

State Parks has chosen to suspend the winter tour season for the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The safety of the public, staff and volunteers remains our top priority.

While in person tours are being suspended this winter, the department’s Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) will be providing additional virtual school visits to accommodate schools who would normally come out on field trips during the winter. In addition, the park unit is planning a robust social media presence on its Facebook and Instagram pages with frequent updates, fun videos and seal facts. The park is looking to partner with both the Elephant Seal rookeries at Piedras Blancas and Point Reyes National Seashore to put out combined seal content.