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Arizona’s national forests are starting to reopen some picnic sites and other recreation areas that were closed this spring in response to the new coronavirus pandemic.

However, granting access to those places isn’t as simple as flipping a switch or unlocking a few gates. Volunteers and staff members have to learn new procedures, safety equipment has to be put in place and supply chains have to be reestablished in order to reopen safely.

As a result, some areas are open now or will open soon while others will remain closed.

Check the forest service website at your destination for current conditions, including fire restrictions. Stage II fire restrictions are in place now, banning wood and charcoal fires, shooting (aside from a legal hunt) and smoking outside a building or vehicle. Propane stoves and grills are OK.

Officials are continuously reevaluating conditions and could shut down reopened areas if necessary.

Activities that support social distancing and activities that can be done in small groups — including hiking and biking on trails — are available in most locations. Explore the Interactive Visitor Map at www.fs.fed.us/ivm.

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What's closed, open in Arizona national forests

Apache-Sitgreaves: Campgrounds are opening with reduced services. These campgrounds opened May 15:

  • Aspen
  • Black Canyon Rim
  • Canyon Point
  • Crook Group Site
  • Sinkhole
  • Spillway
  • Spillway Group Site
  • Woods Canyon Lake

These campgrounds will open May 22:

  • Apache Trout
  • Luna Lake
  • Horse Springs
  • Hoyer
  • Rainbow

Here's what reduced services mean:

  • Self-contained RVs only, no tent camping.
  • A limit of 10 people per site.
  • No trash services. Pack out your trash.
  • No unregistered guests. Your vehicle must display a permit.
  • Restrooms, showers and ramadas are closed.
  • Maintain social distancing and wear a mask when interacting with employees.

Details: www.fs.usda.gov/main/asnf/home.

Coconino: Some locations are scheduled to reopen beginning May 20. Among them are Grasshopper Point swimming and picnic area in Sedona and the Ashurst Lake, Canyon Vista and Lakeview campgrounds near Flagstaff.

Also opening in Sedona are campgrounds and picnic areas in Oak Creek Canyon and popular trailheads such as Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte. See the complete list online.

The Arizona Snowbowl scenic summer sky ride, Snowbowl scenic drive and the Red Rock Ranger District and Oak Creek Canyon visitors centers remain closed.

All the developed campgrounds in the Mogollon Rim Ranger District will be closed at least through Memorial Day weekend. Dispersed camping is allowed.

Fossil Creek and the Honanki, Palatki and V-Bar-V heritage sites aren't scheduled to reopen until late June.

Details: www.fs.usda.gov/coconino.

Coronado: Campgrounds and visitor centers are closed. Many day-use and picnic areas, scenic drives and trails have remained open. Dispersed camping continues to be available as are activities such as hiking, biking and nature watching.

Details: www.fs.usda.gov/coronado.

Kaibab: Dogtown Lake, Kaibab Lake and White Horse Lake campgrounds in the Williams Ranger District and Ten-X Campground in the Tusayan Ranger District opened May 18. DeMotte and Jacob Lake campgrounds in the North Kaibab Ranger District are scheduled to open May 19.

Group camping areas at Jacob Lake, Ten-X, Dogtown Lake, Kaibab Lake and White Horse Lake remain closed.

Most day-use areas will open in time for Memorial Day weekend. Visit the forest website for information on specific areas.

Details: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab.

Tonto: Many sites along the Lower Salt River and at Saguaro, Apache, Canyon, Roosevelt and Bartlett lakes are open. Check the website to be sure your destination is open.

Some areas of the forest have experienced overcrowding in recent months. Visitors are asked to avoid crowded areas and illegal parking.

Tonto Passes ($8 per day) are required and may be purchased at machines at some of the sites, at participating vendors and online.

Details: www.fs.usda.gov/main/tonto/home.

Prescott: All campgrounds, restrooms, cabins and other developed recreation facilities remain closed. Officials are planning a phased reopening starting in June. Reopening will depend on factors such as the ability to maintain social distancing and being able to protect visitors and employees, according to a press release.

Details: www.fs.usda.gov/prescott.

Reach the reporter at weldon.johnson@arizonarepublic.com. Or follow him on Twitter at @weldonjohnson.

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