Eli Graizbord-Michelson, 16, runs along Douglas Spring Trail in Saguaro National Park East in Tucson, Ariz. on March 5, 2020. In 2019, Saguaro National Park attracted more than 1 million visitors which is the first time in the parks history, according to the National Park Service.

Editor's note: This story was last updated on June 9.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's initial stay-at-home order expired on May 15. Mayor Regina Romero extended the City of Tucson's emergency declaration which closed park amenities like playgrounds until at least June 22. 

We know that this is one of the best times of year in Tucson to take advantage of nice weather, spring colors and clear skies. And being cooped up inside all day is no fun. 

Plus, there's all sorts of physical, mental and emotional benefits of spending some time outside, things we could all use right now. 

But it sounds like lots of us have the same ideas when it comes to exploring nature — leading popular outdoor places to close or change their operations due to an increase in visitors. 

Before heading out, be sure to check the website or social media for the places you are visiting for the most updated information. 

Remember social distancing and health guidelines still apply outdoors

The Pima County Health Department recommends the following for all situations to keep yourself and others healthy: 

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Keep at least 6-8' of space from other people

Tucson Parks and Recreation has temporarily closed all playgrounds and other park amenities and equipment at least until June 22. Golf courses, disc golf courses, tennis courts, dog parks, skate parks and rinks, urban fishing areas, open space, trails, walking paths, and some park restroom facilities will continue to remain open for people to use while adhering to social distancing guidelines. These are the suggestions:

  • Prepare for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.
  • While on paths, warn other users of your presence as you pass and step aside to let others pass.
  • Follow CDC guidance on the recommended size of social gatherings including outdoor picnicking, pick-up sports and other group hangouts, and maintain proper physical distance at all times.  At this time the recommendation is to limit group size to 10 people.
  • Observe CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet from other individuals at all times. If this is not possible, users should find an alternate location or depart that space.
  • Consult local and state ordinances and guidelines for the most up-to-date recommendations on park and path use.
  • Refrain from touching playground equipment
  • Avoid activities that share equipment or involve touching. 

Be aware of changes to normal operations and recommendations

Before you head out to a public outdoor space like a city/county park, national park, national forest or other popular destinations check out their websites or social media for the latest updates about any changes to their hours, services or crowds. Some recent announcements include: 

  • Tucson Parks and Recreation has temporarily closed all city park playgrounds and other equipment to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the community. 
  • National forests in Arizona and three other states are closed until at least June 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Forest Service Southwestern Region officials said.
  • Tumamoc Hill has reopened with new safety guidelines for walkers including the use of face masks, limited group sizes and maintaining physical distance. 
  • Saguaro National Park roads, picnic areas and hiking trails are open and restrooms on the visitor center patios are available from 8 a.m. to noon, although the visitor centers are still closed. Water is available on visitor center patios. Groups should be limited to 10 or fewer people. Visit nps.gov/sagu for more information.
  • The Sabino Canyon visitor's center and restrooms are closed. 
  • Some parts of The Loop are busier than others. In general the portion starting at Rillito River Park is usually the most heavily trafficked says Pima County. You might have better luck with less traffic if you get on at Santa Cruz River Park, Harrison Greenway and Julian Wash Greenway. But if you see lots of cars in the parking lot or lots of cyclists and pedestrians at any starting point, it's best to find another place to access The Loop, after all there's more than 100 miles to explore. 

Be safe and respectful of your surroundings

You probably want to avoid an unnecessary trip to the doctor or hospital right now, so it's not the best time to try a new trail or activity that's outside your skill level to avoid any injuries. 

We're also seeing lots of rattlesnake photos taken in public areas, which means just like you, these creatures are emerging from their dens to soak up some sun. Be extra alert when you're out and about so you don't accidentally step on one on your hikes or walks. Find more tips for sss-surviving rattlesnake season here

We've touched on these above but they bear repeating about being respectful of the spaces we're all sharing:

  • Pick up your trash
  • If a parking lot is full somewhere, find another place to explore
  • Keep your distance from other people

Explore your own neighborhood 

You can still get some sun and fresh air without having to worry about crowds. 

• Find a walking path or explore a different route in your neighborhood. See if you can find any of this flora and fauna on your walk.

• Get your neighbors to create sidewalk chalk masterpieces on their walkways for something new to see.

• Roll down your windows and go for a nice scenic drive or to see some public art. If you find a lookout spot you want to enjoy, remember to keep your distance from other people who are already there or find a different place to take a break.


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