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Highway 1, 30 state parks and 18 national forests in California now closed: What you need to know

Bobcat fire rages in San Gabriel Mountains.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

With California menaced by fires and shrouded in smoke, state and federal officials have now closed 30 state parks, Highway 1 south of Big Sur and all of the state’s national forests.

State parks officials posted most recent closures Thursday afternoon: eight parks (listed below) in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, where the Elkhorn Fire has blackened more than 255,000 acres.

U.S. Forest Service officials closed the state’s 18 national forests on Wednesday, a sweeping move that closed access to more than 20 million acres because of “unprecedented and historic fire conditions.” Campgrounds, trails, picnic areas and roads shut to visitors until further notice, according to a U.S. Forest Service news release.

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“These temporary closures are necessary to protect the public and our firefighters, and we will keep them in place until conditions improve and we are confident that national forest visitors can recreate safely,” regional forester Randy Moore said in the release.

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The broader order comes after eight forests, including the nearby Angeles and San Bernardino forests, closed Monday. The Bobcat fire blazing through the Angeles forest near Azusa had grown to 11,456 acres with zero containment as of Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday, officials asked visitors to stay away from Big Bear Lake, Big Bear City, Moonridge, Sugarloaf, Lake Williams, Baldwin Lake, Fawnskin and other communities in the area because of the El Dorado fire. The fire, which started Saturday, has grown to 12,610 acres. As of Thursday afternoon, it was burning south of the community of Angeles Oaks in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Evacuation orders have been issued for those communities, and Highway 38 to the mountain resort has been closed.

National forests will be assessing risks at each site to decide when to lift the order. The Angeles Forest will be closed at least through Monday.

Travelers planning a getaway to any affected areas should check fire status as well as the status of any place they plan to visit — local, state and national parks and forests — before they leave home. Checking highway statuses with Caltrans is recommended, as well.

The Dolan fire in Monterey County has forced closure of Highway 1 from Gorda to 6.2 miles north of Slates Hot Springs, shutting down about 30 miles of the coastal route that Southern Californians take to Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey. (Because of that closure, northbound drivers can’t reach the Monterey County coast via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, either.)

The massive Creek fire in the Sierra National Forest, which has grown to more than 163,000 acres, has prompted warnings and evacuations across a wide part of central California, including popular spots such as Shaver Lake and Huntington Lake.

Forest closures shut down Mammoth Mountain’s bike park, gondola rides, guided climbing and other summer activities. However, the Sierra Star Golf Course and lodgings remain open at the Mammoth Lakes resort.

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Hikers with permits heading to Mt. Whitney, the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (where it runs on national forest land) also had to curtail their plans.

Meanwhile, Yosemite National Park, less than 50 miles north of the still-uncontrolled Creek fire, remained open to visitors with advance reservations on Wednesday afternoon. Rangers did close the park’s Mariposa Grove on Sunday night as a fire precaution.

The southern portion of the park is now under a fire advisory — a possible prelude to evacuation — and spokespersons are warning of poor air quality and visibility.

Still, said park spokesman Scott Gediman on Wednesday, “All park entrances and facilities remain open. Our best advice is for people to monitor air quality and decide how they want to proceed.”

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Writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben, tweeting a sepia-toned view of Yosemite’s Half Dome, wrote, “California faces the greatest siege of fire in recorded history.”

By Thursday morning, officials had already shut down 22 California state parks because of wildfire threats, including two in Southern California: Riverside County’s Wildwood Canyon State Park and San Bernardino County’s Chino Hills State Park. Also, Mount San Jacinto State Park is partially closed, with wilderness areas off-limits to day hiking and overnight hiking

Then on Thursday afternoon, as the Elkhorn fire claimed more territory, state officials added these eight parks to their closure list:

•In Humboldt County, Benbow State Recreation Area, Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park, John B. Dewitt Redwoods State Natural Reserve; Richardson Grove State Park; and Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve.

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•In Mendocino County: Admiral William Standley State Recreation Area; Reynolds Wayside Campground; and Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area.

Also on the closure list:

• In Monterey County, threatened by the Dolan fire: Andrew Molera State Park; Garrapata State Park (on the east side of Highway 1); Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park; John Little State Natural Reserve; Limekiln State Park; Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park; Point Lobos State Natural Reserve; and Point Sur State Historic Park.

• In San Mateo County, threatened by the CZU August Lightning Complex fire: Año Nuevo State Park (including Gazos Creek Beach); Butano State Park; and Portola Redwoods State Park.

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• In Santa Cruz County, also threatened by the CZU August Lightning Complex fire: Big Basin Redwoods State Park (including Rancho del Oso and Little Basin); Castle Rock State Park; and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (including Fall Creek).

• In Santa Clara County, threatened by the SCU Lightning Complex fire: Henry W. Coe State Park.

• In Napa County, threatened by the LNU Lightning Complex fire: Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

• In Sonoma County, also threatened by the LNU Lightning Complex fire: Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve; and Austin Creek State Recreation Area.

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• In Butte County, threatened by the Butte Lightning Complex fire: Lake Oroville State Recreation Area.

• In Contra Costa County, under a red flag warning for fire danger: Mount Diablo State Park.

Another five state parks are partially closed. Besides Mount San Jacinto State Park, the list includes Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve in Mono County; South Yuba River State Park in Nevada County, the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz County.

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In Marin County, Tomales Bay State Park had been closed under threat by the Woodward fire but reopened Wednesday for day use.

Also, Point Reyes National Seashore is closed because of the Woodward fire.


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