A Pandemic/Wildfire Guide to Fall Recreation


Photo by Scott Dickensheets

Finally — finally — the days are cooling off (well, the mornings anyway), which means everyone’s going to be rushing outside again to camp, hike, play disc golf, or whatever else they do. There are still some pandemic rules in effect, however, and now there are additional restrictions to help reduce the risk of wildfires. Here’s a brief guide to what you need to know. 


EVERYWHERE (pretty much)

At the beginning of wildfire season, state and federal public land management agencies issued a joint statewide ban on open fires, citing record dry conditions due to ongoing severe drought. “There is a high likelihood of a fire exhibiting extreme behavior and posing containment problems for firefighters,” the news release read (see: the entire West Coast right now). 

The release also reported an unusually high number of human-caused blazes. Thus, the fire ban covers all fires, campfires, barbecues, stove fires, smoking (except in your car), explosives, fireworks, tracer rounds, incendiary devices, and vehicles and motorized equipment on dried vegetation. It applies to Nevada State Parks and Recreation AreasBLM land, and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Details are at https://www.nevadafireinfo.org/restrictions-and-closures.

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• Death Valley

In line with federal guidance, Death Valley National Park is in the third phase of reopening, meaning that the park is generally open, though facilities such as visitor centers remain closed. More urgently, however, the park is under the same fire restrictions as the state of Nevada (see “Everywhere,” above). Check the website for updates.

• Desert Refuge

Desert National Wildlife Refuge restrooms, roads, and trails have reopened. The Corn Creek Visitor Center remains closed, and refuge managers encourage visitors to practice pandemic-related safety procedures, such as handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing. The refuge is also under the statewide fire restrictions listed above. For more on that, click here.

• Lake Mead

Everything at Lake Mead (access roads, beaches, boat docks) has reopened except for the visitor center, park headquarters, Goldstrike Canyon, Saddle Cove, and — due to the danger of extreme heat — the Arizona Hot Springs, Goldstrike, and White Rock Trails. In order to get into the park, you will need a pass of some sort (Lake Mead, interagency, military, senior, etc.). CDC pandemic guidelines are being enforced, and the fire restrictions noted above are in place. Here are the details. (Note that this information applies to the Nevada side of Lake Mead, not the Arizona side.)

• Mount Charleston

The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area falls under the fire restrictions given above, of course. In addition, some pandemic closures are still in effect. Trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds, for the most part, have reopened, but the Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway is still closed and parking on the mountain is restricted to the 100 legal parking spaces in Kyle and Lee Canyons (and the Forest says it’s enforcing this). Note that conditions regularly change on the mountain, so you should always visit Go Mt. Charleston before you head up there.

• Red Rock

Red Rock National Conservation Area has reopened except for campsites, the red Spring Picnic Area (although parking and restrooms are open there), and the visitors center, which would like you to know you can still purchase its popular gift shop items online. Statewide fire restrictions apply as well. Here’s the website where Red Rock closure information is updated.

• Sloan Canyon

Like other federally managed lands, the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area has reopened except for its visitor contact station. It is also under the statewide fire ban.



Nevada state parks have reopened — including most campgrounds, restrooms, trails, and visitor centers — with the caveat that visitors must follow CDC and health district guidelines on mask-wearing and social distancing. COVID-related information is here, while fire restrictions and closures are here



Most Southern Nevada urban parks and trails have reopened, including restrooms, although some playground equipment remains closed. For Clark County rules and regulation, click here.