Kings Canyon National Park also closed.

By Alison Fox
September 18, 2020
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Yosemite National Park closed Thursday evening as smoke from nearby wildfires caused “unhealthy to hazardous” air quality, the National Park Service confirmed to Travel + Leisure.

“With air quality projected to be in the unhealthy to hazardous range over the next several days, the park anticipates the closure to be in effect at least throughout the weekend,” the NPS told T+L in a statement. “The park will continue to assess the smoke impacts, air quality index, and fire activity throughout the region.”

Yosemite National Park shut down access to both visitors and vehicles at 5 p.m. local time on Thursday.

The closure comes as hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate as wildfires continue to sweep the West Coast from California up to Washington. Earlier this week, smoke from the fires started to move across the country and was so thick it was visible from space.

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

While the overall air quality index on the West Coast has improved from earlier in the week, there are still several areas registering in the 200’s and 300’s, including near Yosemite, according to PurpleAir, which monitors air quality in real-time. Readings in the 200’s result in a health alert while readings in the 300’s result in “health warnings of emergency conditions” if people “are exposed for 24 hours.”

On Monday, PurpleAir’s air quality index registered several areas in the 400s and 500s.

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In addition to Yosemite, nearby Kings Canyon National Park closed Thursday as well, similarly citing “significant smoke impacts and hazardous air quality throughout the park,” according to the NPS. That follows the closure of Sequoia National Park, which shut its gates due to the SQF Complex fire on Tuesday. The SQF Complex fire has so far burned more than 122,800 acres, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE.

This year, nearly 7,900 wildfires have burned more than 3.4 million acres in California, CAL FIRE noted, resulting in apocalyptic skies and dozens of people killed.

The national parks aren’t the first parks in California to close due to wildfires this year. Last month, dozens of California state parks were shut along with campgrounds.

While visitors can’t make it to Yosemite this weekend, they can experience its expansive valleys and granite cliffs through a series of webcams.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.