Good news, confusing news.
The good news? Many hiking trails are re-opening in Los Angeles. The confusing news? There are still many trails in Los Angeles County that are not reopening.
To begin with, Los Angeles County initially announced that hiking trails would reopen on May 8th. Many hikers heard this news and immediately assumed that it mean “all hiking trails in Los Angeles County” would reopen, which is not quite correct. What does it mean? All parks and trails managed by Los Angeles County will be reopened.
Next, the City of Los Angeles also announced that hiking trails in city parks would reopen on Saturday, May 9th, with the exception of Runyon Canyon (which remains closed indefinitely).
Los Angeles County then clarified and updated their website to state that their trails would actually be opening on Saturday, not Friday as initially announced.
And neither of these announcements have any impact on trail status in other cities, agencies, state or federally managed lands like Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) or Angeles National Forest, many of which will remain closed.
Both of these announcements include restrictions that include social distancing and face coverings at all times.
Getting on the trail responsibly
It’s important to remember that if we can’t follow the rules, we risk the trails being shut down again (not to mention the risk of spreading COVID-19). Here’s my advice for getting out on the trails that are reopening in a smart way.
- Avoid going at peak times. If possible, avoid going this weekend. I know, we’re all chomping at the bit to get some dirt under our feet, but it’s not hard to imagine that there are a lot of people feeling the same way. If we all cram the trailheads on the same weekend, we’re in trouble. If you can, put it off to a weekday, or go early when the crowds are lighter.
- Check before you go. If you’re not sure whether a trail is open, check the managing agency (federal, state, county, city or other) before you head out.
- Respect the guidelines for social distancing and face coverings. It’s not for you; it’s for others.
- Have a Plan B (and probably a Plan C). If you get to the trailhead and the parking is nearly full, turn around and head to your “Plan B”. Don’t create an overcrowding problem. If you can’t avoid crowds, head back home.
- Visit less-popular trails. Popular trails are crowded trails. Those trails will wait for you. Pick a more obscure trail and give it a shot.
- No carpooling. Normally we would encourage carpooling and public transportation, but this is not the time.
- Use the bathroom before you go. Even with trails reopening, most facilities at parks remain closed, including bathrooms, playgrounds, visitor centers, picnic grounds, and other “high touch” areas.
- Remember to pack out ALL your trash. Many parks will not be doing trash pickup or emptying trash cans, so pack out what you pack in, and follow the Leave No Trace principles.
- Wash your hands frequently. You’re all doing this by now, right?
- Be kind! Many of the park employees were furloughed during the stay-at-home order, and they are just now being brought back to help reopen things. Be patient and remain kind. They are there to help us enjoy the outdoors and reopen the parks as safely as possible.
We look forward to hitting the trails in the months ahead, and until then, connect with us in the SoCal Hikers group on Facebook for frequent updates.