New Trail Proposed for Joshua Tree

One of the comforting things about our National Parks system is the fact the parks rarely change. While our everyday lives are full of alterations -- be it stores opening and closing, jobs lost and gained, buildings bulldozed or constructed -- the parks are an area on the map where stasis is the norm, where you can return to the same tree decades later and plan on it still being there. Which is why any new trail announcement's a relatively big deal, no matter how short of a distance it goes.

This year, Joshua Tree National Park has started the process of opening up a new trail. If established, it will consist of a modest .7-mile loop that begins and ends at the parking area of Skull Rock, located towards the middle of the park. The trail would essentially be an extension of the current one, but with a separate loop back to the lot. It will also feature a few more scenic vantage points for hikers to admire.

Perhaps most fun of all, the small loop was designed and developed by a summer school class of Morongo Basin GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) students a few years ago. For more information about this new trail -- as well as the history of Joshua Tree and how the new trail will affect the park's vegetation -- head on over to the official release. The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposal.

Lyme Disease Found in San Bernardino Forest

Last week, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health put hikers on alert after discovering two ticks infected with Lyme disease. It was the first time since 1991 that ticks in the area have tested positive for the disease.

Here's what you need to know, from the report:

Typical symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue and a rash resembling a bull's eye that appears near the site of the bite. [A]n infected tick, after burrowing through the skin, usually must be attached and feeding on its host for at least 12 to 48 hours before it can spread the bacteria.

If you're planning on hiking in the area, make sure to apply bug repellent before heading into the woods. It's also vital to perform a tick check upon exiting. If you find a small critter latched on your skin, grab it with a pair of tweezers as close to your skin as possible without jerking or twisting it. (Apparently, some attempt to use a lit match to light the sucker on fire. Don't do that.) If you can, save the tick so that it can be examined.

If you end up contracting the disease, don't panic. Treatment with antibiotics during the first stages of the disease is highly successful. The key is seeking treatment as soon as possible.

Snow Summit Bike Park Opens May 15th

The plan was perfect: Due to the unseasonably warm weather, the Snow Summit Bike Park up in Big Bear -- one of the only lift-served mountain bike parks in Southern California -- was all set to open last weekend. But then Mother Nature had to stick her nose in and drop a bunch of snow into the area, postponing the early season. But fear not, young or at least athletically-inclined folks with mountain bikes just rusting away in your garage: The opening day has only been pushed back a week!

For now, the plan is for the park to open for the season this Friday, May 15th. (Stay tuned to the website for more up-to-the-minute information.) The park will stay open for weekends only until June 19th, when the park will be open daily.

Snow Summit offers up more than 60 miles of U.S. Forest Service trails for bikers to use, including the yet-to-be-opened Going Green Trail, which will ultimately allow users of all levels to descend 1,200 vertical feet. (Construction of the trail is scheduled to begin before Memorial Day.) Season passes will run you $299 for adults, $159 for children 5-12. And for the first time, biking enthusiasts will be able to tack on a season pass to Mammoth Mountain Bike Park for an extra $100 for adults and an additional $40 for children.

For more information, head on over to official website.

Prairie Creek State Park Now Accepting Online Reservations

Gold Bluff Beach in Prairie Creek State Park contains some of the most wondrous views along the California coast. Nestled on a 10-mile stretch of beach within Redwoods National Park and 50 miles north of Eureka, according to its website the park offers "hiking, nature study, wildlife viewing, beach combing, picnicking, a visitor center with exhibits and a nature store." And yes, also the elk pictured above.

There are also 66 different camping sites, 21 of which are designated as "tent only." However, the sites have only been available for use on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning no one was ever 100% sure that a site would be open for them when they showed, particularly stressful during the camp's peak season. Luckily, that's now changed as the campground is taking online reservations during a portion of the year.

Here's the pertinent information:

Starting immediately Gold Bluff Beach Campground is available for reservations on www.reserveamerica.com or by phone at 1-800-444-7275. It will be available for reservations from May 22 - September 6 and will be first come-first serve during the rest of the year. Gold Bluff Beach campground is tent only and no trailers of any kind are allowed on Davison Road.

Reservations can be made up to seven months in advance.

The park is also "crumb clean," and visitors to the park are required -- according to the park rangers -- to watch a video about what this entails. For more information, or to start making your reservations, head on over to the official website.

9 of San Diego County's Best Coastal Hikes

This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail project, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.

With its urban waterfront, dramatic bluffs, wetlands, and golden sand, San Diego County hosts more than its share of coastal hikes, with nothing more difficult than negotiating a trail up or down bluffs. Here are some of the county's best, from the shadow of the Tijuana bull ring to the (sometimes) deserted beaches of San Onofre.

Great Hikes: Chantry Flats to Mount Wilson

Los Angeles has more than its fair share of amazing hikes within relatively easy driving distance, but it's not always easy prioritizing which ones you should visit. In an effort to help out, it's time to detail some of the best. Consider this the start of a hike curating system.

The first on the list is one of my favorites, the 12-mile round-trip through the San Gabriel mountains. It begins at Chantry Flats in Arcadia, where hikers can take a one-mile detour in order to check out the amazing Sturtevant Falls. From there, hikers begin the long 4,200-foot elevation climb to the top of the mountain. The trail is dog-friendly, but hikers should be prepared to share the space with horseback riders and mountain bikers.

Beyond nature, the trail is also full of history. The Mount Wilson Observatory, located at the top of the hike, was once one of the most influential scientific spaces in the country. Created in 1904, the observatory was the site of a wide amount of astronomical firsts: astronomers first measured a star here, scientists found evidence that galaxies existed outside of the Milky Way, and the Mount Wilson telescopes made some of the first detailed observations of Mars. The observatory also houses two historic telescopes -- the 60-inch Hale telescope from 1908, and the 100-inch Hooker telescope from 1917, which was the largest in the world until 1948.

For more information about the hike, head on over to this detailed listing.

Inyo National Forest Opens Up Firewood Season

Are you a mountain man with a closet full of flannels, a beard down to your knees, and an axe in the garage that's damn-tired of collecting dust? Do you, well, want to be? For either the true outdoors-person or the prospective one, there's no activity to get that blood rushing quite like heading into the forest and getting yourself some firewood. And folks, it's chopping season.

On May 1st, Inyo National Forest opened up their fuelwood season for 2015. The season's scheduled to run through October 31.

This means prospective choppers can head over to one of four ranger stations -- for specific locations and hours, read this -- buy a permit for $15 per cord of wood (with a two-cord minimum purchase, and a six-cord maximum), obtain the map showing which areas are open to cutting, and have at it.

There are, of course, quite a few rules when it comes to cutting your fuelwood. For instance, you can only collect down or dead wood and you can only cut between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. If you're using a chainsaw (yes, that's allowed), it must be equipped with a spark arrester. Also, if you are a chainsaw-wielder, be prepared to put that away and use your trusty axe on "shut down days," when fire danger is high.

Read this page for the other rules you'll also need to follow.

4 of San Diego County's Best Coastal Campgrounds


This guide is part of KCET's California Coastal Trail project, which looks at the state's massive undertaking to build a trail over 1,000 miles in length along its whole coastline.

San Diego's beaches are an embarrassment of riches: wide stretches of golden sand, endless sunshine, rugged bluffs, and cool green seas. Add those characteristics to huge, nearby population centers, and you can see why it might be a good idea to plan early. Even so, there are numerous options for finding a small slice of this lovely coast to call your own -- if only for a night or two.

For this guide, we've tried to feature only campgrounds with the best coastal sights, sounds, and smells. Many of those places are state-owned because the parks system boasts so much of California's best seaside real estate.

Not surprisingly, the beaches are among the busiest parks in the state. Reservations can be made up to seven months in advance through ReserveAmerica.com. Book as soon as possible because many sites get snagged the day they become available. Cancellations can also free up previously booked sites, so watch for that. Thanks to CampsitePhotos.com, images of just about every individual site are available online, letting you choose a spot in the shade of a sycamore with just the right view.

Unless otherwise stated below, sites permit both tents and RVs or trailers. Some companies deliver RVs directly to campgrounds, making it possible to enjoy a road hotel without the need to pilot one on the highway; rental information can be found on most state park websites.

Hike and Bike Lassen National Park This Saturday

For better or worse -- probably worse, a lot worse -- it's become a bit of a trend that National Parks are opening earlier this year than ever before. (No rain equals no snow.) Lassen Volcanic National Park -- north of Reno, about an eight-hour drive from L.A. -- is following suit. Why they're opening for the season this year, however, is a little different: They're having a Vehicle Free Day.

This Saturday, May 2nd, starting at 9 a.m., the highway through Lassen will be opened for non-motorized travel only. That means hikers will be able to do some pretty serious hiking throughout the park's roads, if you're so inclined. But probably more importantly, it means that bikers will be able to ride the concrete without having to worry about cars passing by. Think of it like CicLAvia, but in an actual National Park!

While the roads will remain clear of traffic all through the day, the park does recommend completing whatever bike or hiking trip you have planned by nightfall, when the cool night air may create icy conditions on the road. Rangers also recommend wearing layers and bringing sunscreen and a hat, because the higher elevation of the park increases sun exposure.

You'll still need to pay the standard entry fee ($5 per person, walking or on a bike; $10 per vehicle, which will have to be parked once inside) in order to get into the park. And make sure you head over to the official website before heading out, as weather conditions can close the park at any time.

Yosemite's Half Dome Opens Early

Half Dome in Yosemite is one of the most iconic -- and, therefore, most visited -- pieces of National Park landscape in the entire country. In fact, because of its status as one of the most sought-after natural experiences around, Yosemite rangers have had to cap on the amount of permits that are issued per day for those wanting to make the 14-to-16 mile round trip to Half Dome and back. (And it's not for the faint of heart: It takes most people 10 to 12 hours to complete the journey.)

While the amount of people allowed on any given day is strictly limited, this year hikers will have an extra three weeks to participate in the experience.

That's because, just like nearly every other National Park this year, Half Dome is opening early, folks. While the season usually starts on May 22nd, because of the warm weather and low snowpack this season rangers are opening up the Half Dome operations three weeks early.

Starting this Saturday, May 2nd, hikers can apply for the lottery in order to get the necessary permits to climb. To apply, head over to Recreation.gov and fill out the proper forms two days in advance of your planned trip. And if you are planning on heading to Half Dome, make sure you read the official primer to get a sense of what you're in store for.