UPDATED: Which Delaware Valley parks and trails are open?

An inviting trail at Palmyra Cove Nature Park in Burlington County, New Jersey in May 2019. The cove is closed to the public, as are all New Jersey state and county parks, as of Gov. Phil Murphy’s April 7 order. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

(Note: This article last updated 5/22/20. Readers should verify a park or trail’s status before visiting.)

With the novel coronavirus threatening residents of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, officials initially had to close or restrict many public spaces to protect public health. However, through the month of May, many re-opened. Below is a list of what is currently open to the public, and which restrictions remain in place.

If conditions don’t match what’s in this article, or if there are specifics to know, please feel free to email me at Kyle@delvaloutdoors.com.

Delaware

Delaware state parks and beaches (OPEN to in-state residents)

Delaware has started to lift its restrictions on recreation at state parks and beaches. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, prior beach restrictions were lifted May 22, and all usual activities are now allowed, albeit with 6-foot social distance requirements and other precautions. Beach area bathrooms and bathhouses also reopened. Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks will have parking capacity limits.

State park offices also reopened May 21, although all camping and pavilion rentals remained cancelled through May 31. Should Gov. Jay Carney extend his emergency order past June 1, closures of those facilities would also continue.

The state is further restricting access to only in-state residents, and says that “anyone who enters Delaware from another state must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days.” This includes those fishing, hunting, or intending to visit state parks and wildlife areas.

The state also recently implemented restrictions on how many residents can enter a park or wildlife area at one time. Nikki Lavoie, chief of public affairs for the DNREC, provided this information as of April 13:

“We recently announced DNREC will limit the number of people allowed in state parks and wildlife areas at the same time. As the days have gotten nicer and the stay-at-home period endures, we have been increasingly concerned about full parking lots and crowded trails in our state parks and wildlife areas.”

On April 29, the state announced all visitors to state parks are required to bring face masks.

New Castle County Parks (OPEN to in-state residents, with restricted use)

According to the county website, as of April 6, parks remain open but with new restrictions. Due to crowding, the county has closed tennis courts, fenced dog parks, and skate parks. Restrooms have also been closed or removed.

Note that the state of Delaware is requiring all out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days or immediately return home. Law enforcement is enabled to stop any vehicle with out of state plates for questioning, except those traveling on I-95, I-295, or I-495.

Pennsylvania

National Historical Parks: Valley Forge and Independence Hall (CLOSED)

According to Jonathan Parker, acting superintendent of Valley Forge, the entire park, including trails, roads, and open spaces, are closed.

Appalachian Trail (OPEN, with restrictions, use discouraged)

The Appalachian Trail currently remains open, although its use is discouraged. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has eased back on its call for a complete closure, instead opting to make sure hikers are prepared and following best practices. The ATC is also tracking a list of closures, including near the popular Hamburg reservoir area in Berks/Scuylkill counties, which as of 5/22 remained closed to parking.

All overnight shelters and privies on land administered by the National Park Service are closed until further notice, as are those on DCNR land. Local police are also closing crowded trail heads.

Here are lists of of restrictions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (TRAILS OPEN, CAMPING CLOSED)

According to the park’s website, trails and parking areas remain open, except for those closed for repairs. Parking areas at Kittatinny Point are also closed. As of April 9, the Water Gap closed all of its backcountry AT camping sites, along with its designated riverfront camping sites. While May 22 had been floated as a reopening date, a post on the park’s Facebook page says closures continue.

Delaware and Lehigh Canal Trail (OPEN, with restrictions)

The D&L offices and Emrick building are closed, but the trail remains open.

Pennsylvania State Parks (OPEN, with restrictions)

Terry Brady, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, wrote on April 8 that “At this time, there is no move to close any of the lands or waters of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forestlands.”

On March 23, the state did close all facilities, including campgrounds and restrooms. However, the DCNR had also announced plans to do a phased re-opening of park amenities starting May 2.

On May 19, the DCNR released an updated reopening plan. It’s a bit complicated, since it adheres to the red-yellow-green county colors the Wolf administration is using for its full reopening plans. However, key updates:

  • All state parks and forests now have at least one bathroom facility open, including in red counties in SEPA.
  • As of May 22, tent and RV campgrounds at all state parks in “yellow” counties will reopen. For some reason the Wolf administration does not appear to have a user-friendly visual map of which counties are which colors, but Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 does.
  • Park offices and facilities in those parks also reopened May 22.
  • Facilities such as cabins, yurts, and cottages will reopen at those parks June 12.

On May 22, Gov. Wolf announced all state counties would enter the yellow stage by June 5. Presumably state campgrounds near SEPA, such as French Creek and Hickory Run, would also then reopen. However, the DCNR had not announced official plans by this article’s last update.

Berks County Parks (OPEN)

According to the county website, trails remain open, but all offices are closed. Cathy Wegener, director for Berks Parks & Rec, added in an April 9 email that facilities will remain closed through May 31. However, restrooms at two main parks, Gring’s Mill and the Heritage Center, remain open and are cleaned daily. The department encourages social distancing, as parks have become crowded.

Bucks County Parks (OPEN)

According to the Bucks County P&R website, all trails and boat ramps are open; social distancing required and face masks “highly recommended.” Campsites at Tohickon, Tinicum and Lake Towhee Parks also remain closed.

Chester County Parks (OPEN)

According to the county, all parks are open.

Black Rock Sanctuary, Wolf’s Hollow and Exton Parks reopened on Wednesday, May 6th. Hibernia, Nottingham, Warwick Parks and Springton Manor Farm reopened on Tuesday, May 12th.

Camping at Hibernia resumed May 22.

The following regional trails remain open but with no staff or amenities: Chester Valley Trail, Schuylkill River Trail, and Struble Trail. K. Owen Prusack, county parks and trail manager, added via email that his office is asking all bikers on those trails to not exceed 15 mph and give notice to walkers, and that all visitors observe six feet of distance and practice good hygiene.

Delaware County Parks (OPEN)

According to the county website, parks remain open to “residents” but all offices and facilities are closed.

Montgomery County Parks (TRAILS OPEN)

According to the county website, “All Montgomery County park and historic sites are closed to the public until further notice.” Camping is closed at Green Lane. However, trails remain open.

Philadelphia Parks (MOSTLY OPEN)

The city website says that parks, athletic fields, and trails remain open. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive has also been closed to allow more room for recreation. However, buildings, playgrounds, and athletic courts are closed. This includes rec centers, older adult centers, environmental centers, and ice rinks.

New Jersey

State Parks (OPEN)

On April 7, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered all state and county parks closed. However, this was modified May 2, when parks were re-opened for some recreational activities. According to the state website, parks are now open for fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, and kayaking. Campgrounds, swimming, and playgrounds remain off limits through June 30th.

News reports said parks were packed during the nice weekend, although there has been no sign of the state reversing course yet. Camping in Wharton State Forest is also suspended until at least June 30th.

Gov. Murphy stated that decisions to open or close municipal parks will be made at the local level.

Jersey Shore (MIXED)

Varies by town.

Burlington County Parks (OPEN)

According to the county website, parks re-opened May 2. Parking capacity is reduced by half and all facilities remain closed.

Camden County Parks (OPEN)

According to the county website, parks re-opened May 2. Parking capacity is reduced by half and all facilities remain closed.

Gloucester County Parks (OPEN)

The county website says parks are open, with varying restrictions at each.

Hunterdon County Parks (OPEN)

According to the county website, parks re-opened May 2. Parking capacity is reduced by half.

Mercer County Parks (OPEN)

From county P&R:

“Currently, the Mercer County Park Commission has opened their parks to the public for passive recreation only. Trails are accessible to the public for walking, running, jogging, and biking. Lakes within the park system are open to fishing and boating. Golf courses are also open at the moment, tee times and payments must be made online in order to golf on the course. Parking lots will only be filled to 50% capacity following the governors order.

Campgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks, pavilions, playgrounds, boat rentals, restrooms, buildings and facilities (unless stated otherwise) all remain closed. All public programming is cancelled until further notice. Sporting fields and courts are all closed. Any organized or contact sports / public gatherings/picnicking are not permitted.”

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