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When Fire and/or Smoke Become A Threat In Yosemite

Throughout our history as a guide service, fires have not been a physical threat to our programs, primarily because we operate in higher elevations and alpine regions, which have thinner forests and lots of granite.

Most major fires over the past 20-plus years have all occurred at lower elevations and in the drier foothills outside of Yosemite– many miles away from where we operate.

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Above: Though 2020’s Creek Fire was many miles away and south of Yosemite, the smoke ended up creating unhealthy air-quality in areas where we operate, and we did cancel trips due to the smoke.

When fires do occur in Yosemite, they are generally monitored and allowed to burn and smolder unless they pose an immediate threat to developed areas.

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Our greater threat would be from smoke produced from fires.

Above: When fires do occur inside Yosemite, the National Park Service proactively closes trails and assists with exiting of the existing backcountry users.

Ultimately, if there is a direct fire threat, Yosemite National Park is very proactive in sending out personnel to close trails and clear backpackers from the affected area.

Due to the terrain and lower amount of fuel accumulated on the ground, wildfires at elevation move at a slower speed. The largest fire Yosemite has had so far in 2021 is the Lukens fire, and at 3 weeks in it’s grown about 20 acres (.03 square miles) per day on average–much of that in 2-3 days of prescribed burning to backburn the fire near an established campground.  For a complete list of the current fires in Yosemite, see the National Park Service’s page on Current Fire Information, and note the small size of nearly every fire in the park. Yosemite has many trails and alternative ways to exit if necessary; it’s never strictly one-way-in, one-way-out. 

Throughout the season we consistently monitor fires and air-quality around Yosemite. We will only move to cancel programs if the particulate (PM2.5) count is above 150 for at-least ¼ of the day for two consecutive days as well as no signs/predictions for improvement. 

You can follow the fires and air quality yourself using the following sites:

Here’s a list of the best online resources for monitoring fire in the Sierra.

For more information on current fires and the management of fires within Yosemite see:


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