Nearly three months after California closed campgrounds at all of its state parks due to the coronavirus, campsites at 28 state parks are scheduled to reopen Friday and have begun taking reservations.
Most are in Southern California, along beaches from Santa Barbara to San Diego County, although several are around the Lake Tahoe Area and two are in the Greater Bay Area — Little Basin, a former Hewlett-Packard retreat center near Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County, and Half Moon Bay State Beach on the San Mateo County Coast.
“We’re pleased that state parks will begin to provide additional recreational opportunities to the public,” said Gloria Sandoval, deputy director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. “This is just the beginning.”
California has 280 state parks — a spectacular collection of landscapes from Sierra Nevada mountains to redwood forests to broad sandy beaches. Within those, there are roughly 13,000 campsites at 105 parks with camping for tents, RVs and in cabins. The parks opening for camping on Friday have 1,667 campsites.
State parks officials say they hope to open more campgrounds at more parks in the coming weeks.
Summer campground reservations in California are in great demand, and book up quickly, particularly along the coast.
To reserve a site, go to www.reservecalifornia.com
There is a complication: Anyone with existing campground reservations between Friday and June 21 had those reservations cancelled and must book again, Sandoval said. That’s because only half the spaces will be open at first in those campsites, and state officials decided not to randomly cancel half the bookings, but rather start with all new reservations.
People who have state parks campsite reservations after June 21 may have them cancelled if the campgrounds they are booked in have not yet reopened, Sandoval said. Parks officials are working with county health officers to open more campgrounds, and many of the reservations may be honored, she said. That will depend on how fast or slow COVID-19 spreads.
“The important message to everybody is that COVID still remains fluid,” she said. “The number of park units that we are reopening for camping can fluctuate depending on the public health orders. Our commitment is to keeping the public safe.”
Campers whose existing reservations are cancelled with be notified by email and refunded their money, Sandoval said.
Anyone with questions can call Reserve California at 1-800-444-7275.
The decision to begin to open some state parks campsites comes after the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidance last week that allowed county health officers around the state to reopen gyms, bars, hotels, campgrounds and other businesses, but with health safety conditions.
Southern California counties have been reopening businesses and other facilities generally at a faster pace than most Bay Area counties, despite the fact that about 80% of the roughly 4,800 COVID-19 deaths in California have occurred so far in five Southern California counties — Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino and Orange.
Under the first wave of state park campground openings, only about half the spaces in each campsite will be open to maintain social distancing, Sandoval said.
Restrooms and showers will be open, but visitor centers will be closed, and at some parks amenities such as fire rings and playground equipment may be off limits at first to reduce crowds, she said.
All but 21 of the 280 state parks in California are now open for hiking and other recreation, but parking lots are still closed at some.
The 28 parks where campgrounds are opening on Friday are:
Bolsa Chica State Beach (Orange County)
Chino Hills State Park (San Bernardino County)
Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area (Colusa County)
Crystal Cove State Park Moro Campground (Orange County)
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (San Diego County)
Big Basin Redwoods State Park (Little Basin Campgrounds) (Santa Cruz County)
D.L. Bliss State Park (Lake Tahoe area)
Doheny State Beach (Orange County)
Donner Memorial State Park (Lake Tahoe area)
El Capitan State Beach (Santa Barbara County)
Folsom Lake State Recreation Area (Placer County)
Grover Hot Springs State Park (Alpine County)
Half Moon Bay State Beach (San Mateo County)
Lake Perris State Recreation Area (Riverside County)
Leo Carrillo State Park (Los Angeles County)
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park (Nevada County)
Mount San Jacinto State Park (Riverside County)
Palomar Mountain State Park (San Diego County)
Point Mugu State Park (Ventura County)
Refugio State Beach (Santa Barbara County)
Salton Sea State Recreation Area (Riverside County)
San Clemente State Beach (Orange County)
San Elijo State Beach (San Diego County)
San Onofre State Beach (San Diego County)
Silver Strand State Beach (San Diego County)
Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area (San Bernardino County)
South Carlsbad State Beach (San Diego County)
Sugar Pine Point State Park (Lake Tahoe area)
For more information, go to www.parks.ca.gov/COVID19Camping