Yosemite Rim fire reaches #7 in California wildfire size

The ‘Rim Fire’ burning around Yosemite National Park since August 17 today became the 7th largest wildfire in California in the past 100 years as the burn total surpassed 180,000 acres.

The  burn area of the Rim fire displaced the 1977 Marble Cone fire in the Big Sur area of Monterey County as #7 biggest wildfire in the state. When I was a teenager working with the U.S. Forest Service, Marble Cone was considered the largest forest fire in in modern California history. Interestingly, five of the six larger California wildfires happened in the past ten years.

I have traveled through Yosemite National Park three times in the past two years. Most recently in May 2013.


Tunnel View of Yosemite Valley is the classic photo spot named for the Wawona tunnel road in the mountain where cars come out of the Highway 41 tunnel into the light with this view. Bridalveil Fall (620 ft.) on right side of valley.

Fortunately the Rim Fire is not near this section of Yosemite National Park.

Highway 120, the Tioga Pass Road that crosses the Sierra range through Yosemite is currently closed in the western approach to Yosemite National Park.



Tuolumne River at Tuolumne Meadows in the high Sierra near the eastern side of Yosemite National Park.

Smaller fires have burned areas of Yosemite in recent years.


Highway 120 view near Crane Flat within Yosemite National Park (May 2013).

Yosemite 100

Highway 41 view in Yosemite National Park (May 2011)

Driving Highway 120 or Highway 41 into Yosemite National Park means about an hour driving through forests to reach Yosemite Valley. This is rugged, rocky terrain covered mostly in ponderosa pine and fir forest.

Much of the Stanislaus forest was logged in the 19th century. In 1897 the Stanislaus National Forest was created encompassing nearly 900,000 acres of timberland in four California counties. Total forestland in Stanislaus is about 680,000 acres and around 20% of that forest is considered old growth forestland.

The creation of two National Parks south of Yosemite with Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks was in large part to halt the logging of the largest trees on Earth, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the Giant Sequoia. Sequoia National Park was created in 1890 as the nation’s second national park.

Kings Canyon 194

Giant Sequoia at Kings Canyon National Park.

Firefighters have set up sprinklers to douse Giant Sequoia trees in the Merced and Tuolumne Groves, two of three Giant Sequoia groves around Yosemite National Park threatened by the Rim fire.

There are about 75 Giant Sequoia groves remaining in a 200-mile stretch of the Sierra Nevada range, mostly at 5,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation.

In the 19th century these giant trees were logged and the wood was used for everyday items like fruit orchard stakes and pencils. Somewhat of a waste of natural resources for trees that had lived for 2,000 years.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. – John Muir

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Many Giant Sequoia redwoods show signs of previous fires.

Kings Canyon 201

Land of the giants.


Giant Sequoias

Massive, ancient giant sequoias live in three groves in Yosemite National Park. The most easily accessible of these (spring through fall) is the Mariposa Grove near the park’s South Entrance, off of the Wawona Road (Highway 41). Two smaller—and less visited—groves are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves near Crane Flat.

The Mariposa Grove Road is closed to cars approximately November to April, depending on conditions. You can hike up the two-mile road (500 feet of elevation gain) when it is closed (the road may be snowy or icy). Sequoias are visible from the parking lot and a tram tour is available from approximately May to October. (Learn more about the Mariposa Grove…)

No roads enter the Tuolumne or Merced Groves; two to three miles of hiking (about 500 feet of elevation gain) is required before you will see giant sequoias.

Highway 108 is the road I was planning to drive in a couple of weeks as I traveled to Calaveras County and looped through the Sierra via Highway 4 and 108. Residents living around Highway 108 are now being evacuated due to the Rim fire with a center set up at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora.


The fire has reached the shore of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the water supply for San Francisco.

image (August 27, 2013)

Yosemite National Park website has a special page dedicated to Rim Fire updates.

Fire is nature’s way of renewal. Yellowstone National Park had a fire 25 years ago that burned one million acres.

Hopefully California will see the firefighters contain the Rim fire without too much more destruction of the old growth forests.


Yosemite Falls in Yosemite Valley.


Forestland off Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park.

Related Loyalty Traveler Posts:

 The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go (Kings Canyon National Park) – May 15, 2011.

Yosemite lodging south entrance Highway 41 from Fresno – photos and hotel lodging options between Fresno and Yosemite Valley (5-16-2011).

Yosemite Valley – photos of Yosemite waterfalls May 2011 and hotel/cabin tent lodging options in Yosemite Valley (5-17-11).

Yosemite’s Tioga Road across the Sierra Nevada (July 13, 2011).

Yosemite Valley Waterfalls (May 19, 2013)

Tioga Pass Road Yosemite National Park (May 19, 2013)


Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Thank you for this report on the impact of the fire on travel. I’m getting tired of blogs that just list their credit cards, I’m sure with the intent of drumming up referrals. It’s refreshing to actually read about travel!

  2. Portion of Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park to be Temporarily Closed

    Closure Needed to Support Firefighting Efforts in Park

    A portion of the Tioga Road, from Crane Flat to White Wolf, will be temporarily closed to all vehicular traffic beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at 12:00 noon. The closure is necessary for firefighters to perform fire suppression activities along the road. This portion of the road is anticipated to be closed at least through Labor Day Weekend. The park will issue an update as conditions allow for the reopening of the road.

    “The work that will be performed over the next few days is instrumental in suppressing the Rim Fire within Yosemite. The safety of the firefighters working along the road is our paramount concern,” stated park Superintendent Don Neubacher.

    Tamarack Flat and Yosemite Creek Campgrounds, both located along the Tioga Road within the closure, will remain closed during the fire suppression efforts. White Wolf Campground and White Wolf Lodge will remain closed. The Tioga Road will remain open east of White Wolf to the Tioga Pass Entrance. The Porcupine Flat Campground, the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, and all visitor services within Tuolumne Meadows will remain open.

    Highway 41, from the southern portion of the park, and Highway 140, from the western portion of the park, will remain open. Both of these roads provide access to Yosemite Valley.

    A fund to help the park restore trails, facilities, and wildlife habitat has been established by the Yosemite Conservancy. People wishing to contribute to the fund can donate online at

    People can also donate via mail by sending donations to Yosemite Conservancy 101 Montgomery, Suite 1700 San Francisco, CA 95104.

    For up-to-date Yosemite information regarding the Rim Fire, please visit the park’s website at:

  3. I was in North Lake Tahoe this past weekend….the smoke from the fire was being blown over the are causing air quality to drop and being thick enough to block the view across the lake. The best day was Saturday where the wins may have pushed the smoke away from North Lake Tahoe. the smoke also was being blown over I-80.

    Far worse was Reno, NV area with the smoke and air quality from that fire and other fires. You couldnt see the high buildings of the skyline from the interstate and it caused delays on flights coming into Reno.

  4. out of control fires due to mis management of funds

    all those new fire trucks that can’t access the areas due to the terrain.

    If they had leased the super scooper planes from Canada the fires could be stopped while in their first hours.

    and the money wasted thus far could have purchased a fleet of the planes.

  5. Update 30 minutes ago gives the fire burn area as 201,894 acres. Yosemite Rim fire is 5th all-time largest wildfire in California and is 32% contained.

    The fire will have to grow nearly another 20,000 acres to move to #4, but this fire is expected to take another couple of weeks to be controlled with estimated containment currently for three weeks from today on Friday, September 20.

  6. 213,414 acres in Friday night update. Looks like that #4 position might be reached today. Fire is 35% contained.

    Another 60,000 acres burned and this will be the largest wildfire in California in the past 100 years.

    That is a lot of burned forestland as the fire moves east into the mountains.

  7. Rim fire now #4 all-time California wildfire at 222,777 acres. That fire is growing fast and 40% contained. 20,000 acres in little over one day.

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