Giant sequoia groves and the backcountry will reopen Thursday at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in the western Sierra. It's the latest national parks in California to begin welcoming visitors with new safety rules during the coronavirus pandemic.
Park entrances, roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic areas and trails, including paths leading to the popular General Sherman Tree, will open for the first time since March 25, according to a park statement.
Hikers with reserved wilderness permits will be allowed to proceed in the backcountry; walk-up permits won't be issued this summer.
Campgrounds for overnight stays aren't expected to reopen until after the Fourth of July. Visitor centers, bookstores, ranger stations as well as lodgings, restaurants, markets and gift shops remain shut too.
Park officials encourage visitors to avoid crowds at parking lots and on trails, and to consult the park newspaper available at the entrance for more information on what's open and what's closed. Visitors are asked to stay 6 feet from one another at parking lots and on trails and to use face coverings when social distancing isn't possible.
Facilities will be cleaned more frequently, and signs about safe practices will be posted at trail heads and restrooms. Right now, the parks won't collect the $35 entrance fee per vehicle that's good for seven days. When fees resume, visitors should pay online before their visit.
Other California parks have started opening in phases, including Joshua Tree, which opened to camping before Memorial Day; Lassen Volcanic National Park and Redwood National and State Parks. Nationwide, big parks such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone had limited reopenings that they then expanded to accommodate seasonal crowds.
However, Death Valley National Park won't reopen until California allows leisure travel, which is set for Stage 3 in the state plan. Yosemite National Park also remains closed. The park has presented a draft plan that includes limiting the number of visitors to half of usual crowds and requiring prepaid tickets to enter.