Yosemite Fire Update – Should You Cancel Your Visit?

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UPDATE – August 12, 2018 – The Mariposa Grove and Wawona are expected to reopen on Monday August 13. Yosemite Valley is expected to reopen on Tuesday August 14. Highway 140 (through Arch Rock) and Highway 120 (through Big Oak Flats) will be the only roads that lead to the valley. There will be no access to Yosemite Valley from the South Entrance due to firefighting activity just west of Tunnel View. Conversely, the only way to access Wawona and the Mariposa Grove is from the South Entrance. Services in the park will be limited, and it’s still smoky.

UPDATE 8-7-18 –  Yosemite Valley is still closed and there is no date set for it to reopen. Wawona, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Crane Flat, Big Oak Flat and Hetch Hetchy are also closed When these areas of park do reopen it’s expected that visitor services will be extremely limited there. The main objective now is firefighter safety.

The only park entrance that is open is the East Entrance. There is no access to the park from the west

Highway 140 to the Arch Rock entrance is now open (the entrance is closed).

Highway 120 from Groveland to Crane Flat should be open soon (they are doing a safety check and hope for it to open by noon today) but there will be no access to Yosemite Valley; however there will be access to Tioga Road.

The South Entrance will most likely be the last entrance to open.

UPDATE – 8/3/18: The ONLY park entrance open now is the East entrance off of Highway 395, north of Mammoth Lakes. I have had e-mails from many folks who had alternatively planned to stay on the west side near the park and then were going to try to enter the park at Big Oak Flats. THIS IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE. I strongly suggest basing yourself on the east side, (Mammoth Lakes) and enjoy Mono Lake, Bodie & Devils Postpile, and then check out Tenaya Lake (inside the park) on Tioga Pass Road. 

 

UPDATE – 7/24/18: Highway 41, Wawona and Yosemite Valley will be closed as of 8-25-18 at noon. Visitors will be asked to leave the park. This is being done in hopes of setting up a firebreak to stop the spread of the Ferguson Fire.

Since I live near Yosemite and write about the park often, I’ve gotten a lot of inquires lately about the Ferguson Fire, which is burning nearby. And the main question seems to be – “Should I cancel my Yosemite visit”?

Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I have lived in these mountains all my life, and I made it through many wildfires. I also am connected to our local emergency network and have a scanner, so I do get some information that’s not important enough to broadcast on the national news, yet may affect some folks decisions to come to the park at this time.

First and foremost, this is a bad fire, and it’s burning in very rough terrain. It won’t be extinguished in a day or even a week, so keep that in mind when making your plans. Firefighters efforts are also hampered by the fact that an air attack is impossible at times due to limited visibility. If I had to guess, I’d expect that this fire won’t be extinguished for a month, maybe longer.

That said, Yosemite is a large area, and as of this moment the fire has not technically entered the park. So it’s not like the hotels and attractions in Yosemite Valley have hose lays around them, ready to fight off impending flames. They are very safe. There is however a considerable amount of smoke in the valley, and if you have any type of respiratory condition, I would recommend that you postpone your visit. You can get an idea of the smoke conditions in the valley by having a look at the Yosemite Falls Webcam at https://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/webcams/yosemite-falls.

Now let’s talk about where the fire is, and road closures.

Highway 140 is closed 1.9 miles east of Midpines, and will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future. The fire has jumped the Merced River (and Highway 140) and is now burning to the north. The Arch Rock Entrance to Yosemite National Park is also closed, and so are the hotels along Highway 140 near El Portal, including Cedar Lodge and Yosemite View Lodge. That entire area is under mandatory evacuation.

Yosemite West, which is located about 18 miles northwest of the South Entrance, is also under mandatory evacuation. Additionally portions of Highway 41 near Yosemite West have been closed for short periods of time for firefighting activity, so expect delays if you use the South Entrance. And the fire does seem to be moving in the direction of Yosemite West, so keep in mind that the South Entrance may close at any time. Glacier Point Road is also closed.

So, if you have decided to go to Yosemite and are coming from the west, your best option is to enter the park through the Big Oak Flat Entrance on Highway 120. However do keep apprised of conditions as the community of Foresta, which is located nearby, is also under mandatory evacuation.

If you are coming from the East, there are no restrictions along Tioga Road, and the Tioga Pass Entrance is open. This area of the park is probably the furthest from the fire.

Finally, for the most updated and accurate information on the fire, go to Inciweb at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5927/. Not only are there daily updates on the fire, but they also have a few excellent maps to help folks that are unfamiliar with the area put things in perspective.

Keep informed, and stay safe. Oh and don’t let this dissuade you from visiting the park later this year – it really is gorgeous in the fall!!