At Pine Mountain Lake, a resort eight miles from Groveland, people watched flames from their cabin rooftops. At the Groveland Hotel, tourists were cutting short stays and checking out as the parking lot filled with news vans full of reporters checking in.
The fire was only 2% contained, officials said, and thick clouds of smoke billowed into the Reno area some 160 miles away.
But entrances to Yosemite National Park from the south -- on highways 41 and 4 -- remained open and Yosemite Valley was free from smoke, officials said.
The fire is not expected to affect the vacations of those heading to the park from Southern California. But life in California's Gold Country was upended.
The Strawberry Festival, a popular concert tradition near Camp Mather, was canceled. It was scheduled to run between Aug. 29 and Sept. 2.
Ron Stearns of the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Posse coordinated volunteers picking up horses and livestock.
"Anyone with a trailer is helping pull horses out of there," he said. "We're a horse and cow and rodeo community and we work together."
More than 1,000 firefighters were fighting the blaze and planes from the California National Guard roared overhead.