Most of the areas affected by the Rim Fire remain closed – and will stay that way for awhile. The entire burn area within the Stanislaus National Forest is under a closure order that expires Nov. 18. It’s a huge area with boundaries that are hard to visualize without a map. Visit http://1.usa.gov/1eofvuZ to put it into perspective.
The closure area includes much of the Highway 120 corridor. Starting just east of the J132 junction, land on the northern side of the highway is closed, and from Buck Meadows east, both sides are closed. The closure affects all forest roads and trails within the area, and being on one can result in a fine of up to $5,000 or six months imprisonment, or both. The only exceptions are Highway 120 and a few other paved roads. If you’re planning on venturing off of Highway 120, check with the Groveland Ranger District to ensure your destination is open. The district’s phone number is (209) 962-7825.
Although popular areas such as Cherry Lake, Carlon Falls and the Tuolumne River from just east of Lake Don Pedro to Hetch Hetchy are closed, the Highway 108 corridor to the north is completely open. Only a very small corner of the Emigrant Wilderness was scorched, so unless there is another disaster, it will be open for backpacking next summer.
Traveling Highway 120 into Yosemite, land remains closed 50 feet beyond the center line on both sides of the highway. This changes at the trailhead for the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This trail is open, as is land on both sides of the highway. A total of 67 miles of trails – including the route to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias – are closed within the park and they will probably remain closed after Tioga Pass reopens in the spring. Before hiking anywhere north of 120 and west of White Wolf, check with the ranger station prior to making plans. For more information and a map of the closed area within the park, go to http://1.usa.gov/1n9g0Zo.
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The other road that is open through the burn zone is the Evergreen Road/Hetch Hetchy Road route to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Although the fire burned this area, you can drive to the reservoir as long as you don’t venture more than 50 feet from the center line. Evergreen Lodge survived the fire and is open for business. At the reservoir, the picnic area, the dam, the restrooms and the backpackers’ campground are all open. The trail across the dam to Wapama Falls is open, though there won’t be much water to see until there is more precipitation. I haven’t had the chance to make it to Hetch Hetchy since the fire, but I expect it will look quite a bit different. The flames burned the south and western edges of the reservoir.
Lake Eleanor is closed. The access road passes through closed areas of Stanislaus National Forest and the trail from Hetch Hetchy passes through closed areas of Yosemite, so it will likely remain inaccessible for quite some time. Many of the trails in this part of Yosemite are some of the least-visited in the park, but within the closed areas are several great destinations, including Smith Peak and Lake Eleanor. Both the bike route and the walking trail to Aspen Valley are also closed. Kibbie Lake looks like it will be inaccessible this summer unless approached from the north or east via a cross-country route. The Eleanor and Hetch Hetchy Trails to Laurel Lake are currently closed and it will be very difficult to reach as well, unless taking a very roundabout approach from the east.
If you’re looking for something to do during this dry winter, boats can still be launched in local reservoirs and trails are open, despite low water levels. Trails in state parks and wildlife refuges are also open.
Although the ski resorts in our area are mostly closed, and it’s hard to find enough snow on a trail to snowshoe or cross-country ski, the ice rink in Yosemite Valley is open until mid-March. The rink at Curry Village is open daily from noon to 2:30 p.m., 3:30 to 6 p.m., and 7 to 9:30 p.m. On weekends it is also open from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $9.50 for children. Skate rentals are $4. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/LNxgYA or call (209) 372-8319.