KEY POINTS

  • Yosemite National Park closed Thursday due to the California wildfires and will likely stay shut down through the weekend
  • Park officials will continue to monitor smoke impacts, Air Quality Index and nearby fire activity
  • The park is located close to the Creek Fire, which has burned over 246,756 acres so far

Yosemite National Park has been closed to all visitors due to the smoke and hazardous air quality caused by the California wildfires, the park service announced Thursday.

The closure of all entrance points, which went into effect at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, will likely continue throughout the weekend, the park service said in a statement. 

“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 statement said.

National Park Service (NPS) officials will continue to monitor the smoke impacts, Air Quality Index (AQI), and nearby fire activity. It will reopen if the officials deem the air quality safe for visitors and employees, the park service announced.

NPS officials stated Yosemite's shutdown was “in alignment” with the closures of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The wildfire situation in California has forced the closures of at least 10 national parks in the state, SFGate reported.

The Sequoia National Park was closed Tuesday in response to the neighboring Castle Fire on the SFQ complex, which was followed by the closure of Kings Canyon National Park on Thursday due to smoke concerns.

Yosemite National Park is located closer to the Creek Fire, which spread to 246,756 acres as of Thursday, with 20% containment. The fire inched closer to Yosemite National Park’s southern boundary as of late Thursday afternoon, a park spokesperson told The Fresno Bee. There are reports of other small fires, including the Bluejay Fire, burning near the national park.

The AQI reportedly topped the 500 mark during the past few days, with employees raising concerns about working in hazardous conditions.

"We were miserable in the smoke," Lianne Saylor, an employee at a hotel inside the park, told SF Gate. "Guests don't realize that. They don't realize that coming in puts the employees' health at risk."

At least 26 active major wildfires are still burning across California with at least 17,400 firefighters battling to contain the blazes, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported. The record-setting fire season in California this year has burned over 3.4 million acres of land.

Known for its spectacular views of waterfalls, towering granite monoliths, and ancient giant sequoias, Yosemite National Park sees more than 4 million visitors each year.

Yosemite National Park View of Yosemite National Park valley in a photo taken on March 08, 2014 Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images