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Alternative to Closed California National Forests: Yosemite Day Pass System

re: National Forest Service Closes All Southwest Region National Forests in California

Unicorn Peak, Yosemite

UPDATE, September 14 2021: now mostly open, see Forest Service Ending Regional Closure Order Two Days Early; Five Forests to Remain Closed Under Local Orders

...

The weather has turned beautiful and the air is crystal-clear here and in the Eastern Sierra. Or at least very good (varies a little). Most beautiful time of the year, IMO.

From mid-September on, the Eastern Sierra offers its world-class charms, what with advancing season turning aspen golden and scub blueberries bright red, and the wonderful slanting light of autumn and the generally favorable temperature range. But you can’t go there* this year! Except for Yosemite.

I have long loved shooting in the Eastern Sierra from late September through mid November, but with the national forest closures, it cannot be done unless and until the closures are lifted. Nor can I plan for a trip to leave on the day the bureaucrats make up their minds to open or close for another two weeks (closure ends Sept 17, but might be extended).

* The mid and southern national forests in California are closed to all recreational use through September 17. At the time I wrote this, it’s unknown if the closures will be extended (presumably into October), or whether the order will lapse.

Workaround — Yosemite

I found a workaround to the national forest closures: vising the high country within Yosemite National Park itself, which is not affected by the forest closures—Yosemite is managed by the National Park Service, not the National Forest Service—entirely different management entities.

While normally I visit just outside the park in wilderness areas abutting it, the park itself is a great location, albeit usually overcrowded, which is why over the past decade I have increasingly avoided the park itself until mid/late October. But with the restricted number of day use entries, most of which will end up in Yosemite Valley, people and traffic should be very light—a bonus!

Yosemite day pass system

The Yosemite day-use entry pass system at recreation.gov allows purchasing a 3 day entry pass. The pass is good for a vehicle, whether it be yourself or half a dozen of your friends/family. Cyclists need no pass as I understand it, so pedal on in if you can. Which I might do on this next weekend, parking near the entrance.

Plan in advance since Fri/Sat/Sun go very fast upon “release”. Multiple passes can be purchased abutting each other in dates, covering a week or more.

I did not snag a pass for the weekend of Sept 18/19, but I have my entry through the park covered on Sept 17, as well as the entire next week, and I plan on fleshing that out some more once the passes are released for purchase.

If visiting more than one 2/3 day period, I recommend purchasing an annual pass ($80), or the lifetime pass if you are 62 or older. With the annual/lifetime pass, the day-use fee drops to just $2 for three days— $0.67 per day.

Recreation.gov: Yosemite day-use pass reservations
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