Three months after wildfire flames ripped through California’s ancient redwood groves, officials at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks have announced the Giant Forest will reopen to the public.
Visitors will be able to enter limited areas of the forest starting Saturday as part of a phased reopening, officials said – although winter storms could force some road closures.
The forest has been closed to public access since mid-September due to the fire at the KNP complex that burned more than 88,000 acres and is still smoldering in some areas.
The opening is a “really great next step,” said Parks spokeswoman Rebecca Paterson.
The fire created one of the most indelible images of the year as the base of the General Sherman Tree – known as the largest tree on earth by volume – had to be wrapped in fireproof wrap.
“We have been working hard to restore access to the Giant Forest as quickly as possible and we thank everyone for their patience and flexibility with the limited access we are currently able to provide,” support Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Clay Jordan said in a statement.
Though redwoods are adapted to wildfires — and rely on them for reproduction — California’s new breed of faster, hotter, more intense wildfires has proven deadly. As many as 3,600 giant sequoias in the southern Sierra Nevada have died in blazes from the KNP complex fire and the nearby Windy fire this year.
The staggering loss accounts for about 3% to 5% of the world’s giant sequoia population, officials said.
But many of the trails in the Giant Forest, including the Congress Trail, were unaffected by the fire and remain open. Some trails burned by the fire will be opened with warning signs, while the most damaged trails will remain closed, officials said.
Saturday’s reopening stretches from Hospital Rock to just above the junction with Wolverton Road. The Giant Forest Museum will also be open, but there is no drinking water or food in the area, so visitors are advised to bring their own.
And with Winter storms in the forecast, Tire chains may be needed, officials said. As of Friday, the area at the height of Giant Forest had received about 9 inches of snow, Paterson said.
“Today a lot of work goes into clearing the roads and making sure the roads are in a reasonable condition for people to access tomorrow and Sunday,” she said.
The foothills of Sequoia National Park also remain open, although visitors are advised to check weather and road information before visiting the park in winter.
Paterson said the parks plan to close roads “quite conservatively” during inclement weather this year because fires can cause instability in some sloped areas.
The Giant Forest is an extremely popular area that typically draws millions of visitors each year, but those numbers have been hit due to wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.
“As we continue to mitigate risk, get employees back to their homes, and grapple with the roadblocks of the winter season, we hope we can continue to move closer to normal access levels for this time of year,” Jordan said.
Park officials said the first reopening of the Giant Forest will be four days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset, with seven-day access from Christmas Day through New Year’s Day.
The next open days are as follows, weather and conditions permitting:
- Saturday 11 December – Sunday 12 December
- Friday 17 Dec – Monday 20 Dec
- Friday 24 December – Monday 3 January.
Sunday, December 12 will be a toll-free day, the park said.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-12-10/giant-forest-to-reopen-months-after-fires-threatened-sequoias Giant Forest is set to reopen months after fires threatened redwoods