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Where You Can, and Can't, Get Outside

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Photograph by Scott Dickensheets

Looking west into the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

It’s 90-something degrees, Memorial Day is coming, and — perhaps most significantly — everyone’s been cooped up at home with family for six weeks. No one can be blamed for wanting to get outdoors. But don’t, please. That’s the message of most park managers, even with Gov. Steve Sisolak starting to loosen some restrictions on public gathering. A summary of what’s allowed (and what’s not) at the most popular outdoor spots as of May 1 follows.

 

STATE AND NATIONAL PARKS

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is closed until further notice. Through traffic can still use highway 190 and Daylight Pass, and park rangers will remain on duty to enforce rules and protect the park. Check the website for updates.

Desert Refuge

The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is closed — Corn Creek Visitor Center, Alamo Road, Mormon Well Road, everything. A notice on the refuge's website reads, "A reopening date for the refuge has not been determined at this time," and urges visitors to check back for updates.

Lake Mead

Generally, you can go in the country’s sixth-most-visited national park on bike, foot, or wheelchair. As of May 2, you can also enter by car if you're already an annual pass holder. For now, the park isn't doing any transactions at entrances to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

If you do go, Lake Mead asks, please follow the CDC’s safety recommendations. And some trails and facilities do remain closed. Here are the details. 

  • Arizona Hot Springs, Goldstrike Canyon, and Lone Palm Trails are closed through the end of September, partly because of coronavirus, partly because it’s too damn hot to be hiking there anyway, and partly because of — get this — “a spike in emergency public safety incidents,” according to press release. In 45 days, first responders have had to do nine search and rescue operations there, compared with one last year. Stop going there, people. Our first responders have better things to do, in case you hadn’t heard. 
  • Other trails are open. In another recent press release, park management reminded people that hikes such as the Historic Railroad Trail are harder than they look, have zero shade and few places to rest, and — again — it’s getting hot. So, please dress appropriately, wear a hat and sunscreen, and take plenty of water, along with hand sanitizer, of course.
  • The Boulder City Visitor Center and park headquarters are closed, along with developed campgrounds, several coves and points, and canyons (click here for a list).
  • Everything else is open. To see details, visit the park’s website.

Officials put fire restrictions in place earlier than usual. For those rules, click here.

Note that this information applies to the Nevada side of Lake Mead, not the Arizona side. 

Mount Charleston

In what wins the pandemic’s award for most refreshingly honest news release, on May 1 the Forest Service straight-up asked the public to stay away from the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. The release reads, “The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest asks the public to please honor (Nevada’s Stay at Home) directive by not traveling to the Mount Charleston Area.” 

This is partly because public facilities are closed, including campgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms, and visitors’ centers, and partly because, as a release a week earlier had noted, larger-than-usual crowds are flocking to the mountains. Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger said he sympathizes with people’s desire to get outdoors but added that people should do that closer to home where it’s easier to practice social distancing. It’s kind of hard to keep six feet between you and a hundred other people passing you on a three-foot-wide trail (my words).

Dunkelberger’s words were, “We look forward to reopening sites and welcoming you back when we have the ability to do so safely.”

A few non-fee sites are open, including Cliff Rose, Deer Creek, Desert View, Fletcher, and Juniper trailheads and parking lots. But the forest service also wants you to know that parking is limited: officers are both ticketing cars parked illegally and stopping people at the Kyle and Lee Canyon junctions off I95 to turn them back when it's full.

Also worth noting: Fire restrictions have gone into effect earlier than usual in order to avoid diverting firefighters from coronavirus duties to put out human-caused fires. So don’t build any manmade fires (including barbecues, coals, grills, and stoves) or smoke, or risk incurring a $5,000 fine. For more info, visit the Go Mt. Charleston website.

Red Rock

Red Rock National Conservation Area will partially reopen June 1. Open areas include the Red Rock Overlook, Red Spring Boardwalk, trails/trailheads, and restrooms. The scenic loop will be open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. or until parking lots fill, when it will be closed until traffic again drops below capacity. No parking is allowed on the scenic loop, and the BLM will issue no late exit or overnight permits until further notice.

Still closed are the Red Rock campground and visitor center, as well as the Red Spring picnic area.

Like most other federal sites, Red Rock also currently has fire restrictions, which you can find here

By the way, both Red Rock and Mount Charleston have been taking to social media lately to remind anyone who does venture out to practice the Leave No Trace seven principles. Here’s the website where Red Rock closure information is updated.

Sloan Canyon

The Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area parking area at Democracy Drive and Nawghaw Poa Road reopens June 1. The visitor contact station remains closed. 

State Parks

Nevada state parks are open for day-use only, except the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, which remains closed. Applicable entrance fees apply, and managers advise visitors to follow CDC and health district guidelines. As a safety precaution cabins, campgrounds, gift shops, museums, offices, and visitor centers are closed. Some boat launches are open (see which ones here). Restrooms are open, but visitors are asked to bring their own soap or hand sanitizer. Go to parks.nv.gov for details. 

  

MUNICIPAL PARKS

Clark County Parks

Basketball courts, baseball and softball fields, playgrounds, restrooms, swimming pools, splash pads, and volleyball courts are closed at the county’s 100 parks and 63 recreation centers. Following the governor’s recent guidance, dog parks, golf and disc golf courses, and pickleball and tennis courts are open. Outdoor spaces and trails never closed, but the county encourages visitors using them to follow the Southern Nevada Health District’s safety guidelines. For details, visit the county’s parks website

BONUS: A snippet of my conversation with the parks and rec’ PIO, Richard Mueller:

Me: So, if there’s a bathroom next to a tennis court, it’s still closed?

Rich: Yeah … for now. That may change. I’ll send out a press release when it does.

Henderson Parks

Henderson is doing loosely the same thing as Clark County (see above). For details, plus a list of the city’s 66 parks and trails, click here.

Las Vegas Parks

Parks in the city of Las Vegas are open, but playgrounds and picnic pavilions are closed, and park visitors are asked to practice social distancing. Community and cultural centers are also closed. 

North Las Vegas Parks

North Las Vegas is doing the same thing as Clark County (see above).

 

NOTE: This story was updated May 2, 4, 11, and 27 to reflect new openings.

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