U.S. Forest Service to reopen all but 5 of California’s national forests

Vehicles on road in forest
Route 33 through the Los Padres National Forest in 2020.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

All but five of California’s national forests — previously closed under an emergency order issued in late August — will reopen two days early, officials said Tuesday.

The closure order will end at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, two days before Friday’s original end date, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region.

Forest-wide closures will remain in place until midnight Sept. 22 for the Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests in Southern California because of “weather and fire factors,” and a temporary strain on firefighting resources battling blazes in other areas of the state, the Forest Service said.


In addition, the El Dorado National Forest in Northern California will stay closed until Sept. 30, the Forest Service said.

“We are constantly evaluating weather and fire conditions in California, as well as regional and national firefighting resources available to us so that we can ensure the safety of the public and our firefighters,” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “Some factors are more favorable now, which is why I decided to end the regional closure order. I want to thank the public and our partners for their patience and understanding during these challenging times.”

On Aug. 30, Forest Service officials announced the sweeping closures, citing the Labor Day holiday, a need to limit the number of people visiting the national forests and “record level” conditions causing fires to behave “beyond the norm.”

Officials said Tuesday that changing conditions led them to reopen the forests, including:

  • More firefighting resources available because of falling fire danger in other parts of the country
  • Changing weather systems as the seasons change
  • A drop-off in peak summer visitation since Labor Day

The Forest Service said the public should continue to use caution as they visit the reopened areas and to follow all guidelines in place to prevent human-caused fires.

Best practices include:

  • Following all information about trails and campgrounds, especially fire restrictions and closures
  • Camp stoves with a shutoff valve are generally allowed
  • Not smoking or parking in grass or other flammable materials
  • Packing all trash and leaving with everything you came into the forest with

Officials said the coronavirus pandemic remains a concern and national forest visitors should maintain at least six feet of distance from others, should not gather in groups outside their families and should follow all health guidance.