Understanding behavioral changes in the usage of outdoor recreational resources is important for the management of landholding agencies and organizations like the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. Although the costs of operating these resources are often contrasted with the values they offer, little is known about how the values of benefits change in times of crisis. This work investigates the effect of a public health crisis — the COVID-19 pandemic — on recreation patterns and economic values for two wilderness areas in California: Desolation Wilderness and the Inyo Wilderness Area. The effects of the pandemic are estimated using a set of count data models with a robust set of controls. Results show that the value of recreating in wilderness areas increased during the pandemic, albeit temporarily. Further, we find that the group size and duration are important factors that determine the value of forest recreation.