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Climate and Environment

Here Are The National Forests In California That Are Closed (And When They Will Reopen)

A person relaxes in a colorful hammock in a forest while a child sits next to a firepit. A couple of tents are behind them.
Noah (in hammock) and Valentina Gonzalez from the Sacramento area relax in their campsite at Yosemite National Park on June 11, 2020, after the park reopened following COVID restrictions.
(Ezra Shaw
Getty Images)
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  • On Sept. 14, USFS officials announced that most of the California national forests scheduled to be closed would reopen two days early at 11:59 on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

  • However, full closures have been extended until midnight on Sept. 22 for the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland National Forests in Southern California. Officials said that was "due to local weather and fire factors, as well as a temporary strain on firefighting resources supporting large fires in other areas of the state."

Tuck the sleeping bag in the closet and put the tent back in the garage. If you were expecting to camp in one of California's National Forests this Labor Day weekend, you'll need to make other plans.

With sizable swaths of California on fire — from the Caldor Fire near Tahoe to the Dixie Fire in Northern California to the French Fire in Kern County — the United States Forest Service today announced it is closing California's national forests to the public, starting Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 11:59 p.m. The closure lasts until Sept. 17 but could be extended.

"We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety," said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien in a news release. "It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests."

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The Pacific Crest Trail throughout all the affected forests is also closed. On Monday, the Pacific Crest Trail Association advised all hikers in those areas, "If you are out there now, it’s time to start walking out to the trailhead."

This order does not affect national parks such as Yosemite or state parks such as Anza-Borrego Desert and El Capitan Beach.

This order affects 17 of California's 20 national forests, which cover approximately 20 million acres:

  1. Angeles National Forest
  2. Cleveland National Forest
  3. Inyo National Forest
  4. Klamath National Forest
  5. Lassen National Forest
  6. Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
  7. Los Padres National Forest
  8. Mendocino National Forest
  9. Modoc National Forest
  10. Plumas National Forest
  11. Sequoia National Forest
  12. San Bernardino National Forest
  13. Shasta-Trinity National Forest
  14. Sierra National Forest
  15. Six Rivers National Forest
  16. Stanislaus National Forest
  17. Tahoe National Forest

Officials closed the Eldorado National Forest to visitors in mid-August due to the Caldor Fire. It will remain closed until Sep. 30.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou and Humboldt-Toiyabe national forests, both of which are mostly located in other states (Nevada and Oregon, respectively), remain open. However, certain campgrounds and roads in Humboldt-Toiyabe have been closed because of the Caldor Fire.

Four of the Golden State's recently closed national forests — Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino — are in Southern California and are popular for camping and recreation. All have been under "very high" or "extreme" fire danger for weeks.

The Angeles National Forest has released a list of road closures:

  • Highway 2 at Clear Creek
  • Highway 2 at Big Pines
  • Highway 39 near Gateway Center
  • Golden State Highway at I-5
  • Old Ridge Route at 138
  • Upper Big Tujunga at Highway 2 and at Angeles Forest Highway
  • Mt. Baldy Road at Shinn Road
  • Glendora Mt. Road and Glendora Ridge Road
  • San Dimas Canyon Road

An important note: Drivers used to shaving time off their commutes to and from the Antelope Valley can still use Highway 2, up to the intersection of the Angeles Forest Highway. However, you're going to have to stay in your car.

"I just want to reiterate one thing: there's no stopping along the highway," said John Miller, a spokesperson for the forest. "No picnicking, no stopping for lunch, no stopping to sightsee. It's just basically to travel from the High Desert down into the L.A. Basin."

The Angeles National Forest, June 2021.
(Jeffrey Keenan/Unsplash)
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The Forest Service says the closure order will decrease the potential for new fire starts at a time when the West Coast's firefighting resources are stretched thin. The closure order also stated, "By temporarily reducing the numbers of people on national forests, we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped" in these forests if a fire breaks out.

The closures were first reported by the Sacramento Bee.

The move isn't totally unexpected. Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest division, which covers California, Hawaii and parts of the Pacific Islands, announced it was closing all nine national forests in Northern California from Aug. 22 through Sept. 6, now extended for the California sites.

Read The Order

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Corrected August 31, 2021 at 3:09 PM PDT
This story was updated to include information about the closure of the Eldorado National Forest, which occurred two weeks before this order. The story was also corrected to remove Rogue River-Siskiyou and Humboldt-Toiyabe from the list of recent forest closures in California. These national forests are managed by other divisions of the U.S. Forest Service.
Updated August 31, 2021 at 1:50 PM PDT
This story was updated with additional details about Highway 2.
Updated August 31, 2021 at 10:40 AM PDT
This story was updated with details about road closures in the Angeles National Forest.
Updated August 30, 2021 at 5:23 PM PDT
This story was updated with information about Pacific Crest Trail closures.
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