Hiking Trail Where California Family Found Dead Closed to Public Amid Investigation

A number of California hiking spots in Sierra National Forest have been closed to the public following the deaths of a family and their dog in August.

The trail closures are due to last until September 26, though this date is subject to change. In a public announcement Sierra National Forest authorities said the closure was ordered "to provide for public safety" and cited "unknown hazards found in or near the Savage Lundy Trail."

Anyone found breaching the orders could face fines of $5,000 or $10,000 for groups, or up to six months in prison. Full details of the closures can be found here.

The death of the family in California's Mariposa County in August has sparked an ongoing investigation that has yet to find a definitive cause.

The Mariposa County Sheriff's Office announced on Facebook in August that the family—John Gerrish, Ellen Chung, their one-year-old daughter Miju and their family dog, named Oski according to the San Francisco Chronicle—were found dead on August 17, having been reported missing the previous night.

The Sheriff's Office said the family's vehicle had been parked near the Sierra National Forest gate leading to Hites Cove in the Jerseydale area and that they were "located deceased near the Devil's Gulch area in the Southfork of the Merced River drainage."

In updates released to the press since, investigators have said they were still unsure about what killed the family, having already ruled out causes such as chemicals from a nearby mine, according to CBS SF Bay Area.

The news outlet cited sheriff's office spokesperson Kristie Mitchell, who described the deaths as "a very unusual, unique situation" and said there was "no obvious cause of death." However, there are still concerns the area could be hazardous.

As of mid-July, forest officials have posted warning signs of potentially harmful algal blooms in the South Fork of the Merced River, according to a trail closure notice.

On August 26 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that investigators believe the family had hiked most of an 8.5-mile loop and had died on their return to their vehicle.

In a statement at the time, Sheriff Jeremy Briese said teams were "working round the clock" to figure out what happened, the newspaper added.

The trail closures come as the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region announced the temporary closure of all national forests in California due to an "ongoing California wildfire crisis," according to a public announcement.

Regional forester Jennifer Eberlien said in a statement: "We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety."

Details and exemptions can be found in the news release here.

Trail closed sign
A stock photo shows a sign indicating a trail closure. Authorities are still working to ascertain what caused the death of a California family who were hiking in August. Jeff Sorenson/Getty