Wildfire smoke dodging: Where are you going?

Questions and reports related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
Post Reply
User avatar
Topix Expert
Posts: 678
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:19 pm
Experience: Level 1 Hiker
Location: San Mateo, CA

Wildfire smoke dodging: Where are you going?

Post by c9h13no3 » Sat Sep 12, 2020 2:04 pm

Given the crazy conditions, it's probably better to talk about where we would go rather than to constantly preach about how the majority of the Sierra sucks right now.

I'm on call for my job this weekend, so I'm stuck locally. Given how crappy it is, I'm gobbling up on call shifts so I can have more free weekends later. But if I was free, I'd probably try to go somewhere. I wouldn't trust the smoke forecast for more than a day or two at a time, so day trips or overnighters would be the ticket. If you want a longer trip, string a bunch of day hikes together following the good air.

The Airnow Map is below for Sunday the 13th, and as you can see, the options are pretty limited. The south eastern part of the state has the best air & smoke forecast. There are other smoke forecasts (Windy.com, the USFS's BlueSky), but the EPA's I find to be the most predictive, at least anecdotally. PurpleAir.com is the best for real-time data, but no forecast.


The other issue here is that Forest Service land is all closed. So I go to Caltopo.com and turn on the public land layer (click "Map Layers" in the top right). So we're looking at a combo of BLM & National Park land.

The last thing I do is check the fire activity in the area. Mineral King, for example, has a Moderate (50-100) AQI forecast for Sunday. But that seems a bit risky to me. If you click "Map Layers" in Caltopo, and check out the Castle & Rattlesnake fire (click "Fire Activity"), you'll see they're super close. I just don't buy that the air quality can be good with an actively burning fire 9 miles away. Red dots on Caltopo indicate actively burning fires, while yellow checked areas show the burned area. Plus the other air quality forecasts put smoke in the Mineral King Valley on Sunday.

So what jumps out to me for tomorrow is the Chimney Peak/Owens Peak Wilderness, the Inyo/Keynot peak area, or driving far into Nevada (Arc Dome, Mt Augusta). The 5.5 hr drive from the Bay Area to Walker Pass wouldn't violate my rule of having more driving than hiking time, and the weather isn't crazy hot. So if I were itching to get out, that's probably where I'd go. The San Benito peak area also has decent air, but the asbestos in the soil and likely hot weather would keep me out of hiking around there.

What are your plans for upcoming trips?
You must be registered and logged in to view the files/photos attached to this post.

"Adventure is just bad planning." - Roald Amundsen
Also, I have a blog no one reads. Please do not click here.

User avatar
Topix Novice
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Aug 15, 2017 7:40 am
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

Re: Wildfire smoke dodging: Where are you going?

Post by Enigmagic » Sun Sep 13, 2020 8:06 am

Some trails in the parks are closed. Most of Mineral King is closed due to the Rattlesnake Fire, as is the High Sierra Trail east of Kaweah Gap. Tioga Road is currently closed due to the Blue Jay Fire. I have a five day trip planned out of Lodgepole on Wednesday and I'm debating on what to do too.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests