Yosemite National Park is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque destinations in the United States, with its towering granite cliffs, serene valleys, and crystal-clear streams. However, there’s one natural phenomenon that attracts visitors from all over the world – the Horsetail Fall’s Firefall.
During the winter months, this waterfall turns into a spectacular firefall, with bright orange and red hues cascading down the cliff, mimicking a river of lava. This awe-inspiring spectacle is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you shouldn’t miss.
In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about the Horsetail Fall’s Firefall, Yosemite National Park, including the best time to witness it, how to get there, and more.
When does Horsetail Fall’s Firefall occur?
The Horsetail Fall’s Firefall occurs during the last two weeks of February, around the same time every year. The phenomenon usually lasts for about ten minutes at sunset, when the angle of the sun’s rays illuminates the waterfall, making it appear as if it’s on fire.
The exact timing of the firefall varies depending on weather conditions, so it’s essential to check the forecast before planning your trip. It’s worth noting that the phenomenon is highly dependent on clear skies and direct sunlight, so cloudy days can impact the experience.
How can visitors view Horsetail Fall and what is the recommended parking option?
Visitors can view Horsetail Fall from several areas within Yosemite Valley, but the most popular and recommended viewing location is the El Capitan Picnic Area.
The viewing area is accessible by foot, and it is a 1.5-mile walk from the Yosemite Falls parking lot, just west of Yosemite Valley Lodge.
Visitors can also park at other locations, but parking is limited, and there may be restrictions in place during the peak viewing times. For example, in previous years, restrictions have been in effect from noon to 7 pm between February 14 and 27, and parking and traffic may be restricted .
Other essential details:
- The Horsetail Fall’s Firefall is located in Yosemite Valley, on the eastern side of El Capitan.
- The waterfall is approximately 1,570 feet tall.
- The best time to witness the firefall is around 5:30-6:00 pm, when the sun is setting.
- The spectacle usually lasts for about ten minutes, so be prepared to capture the moment.
- The National Park Service asks visitors to be respectful of the environment and wildlife and to refrain from leaving any trash or litter behind.
@emilie.hofferber yosemite #firefall is a must-see. comment the coolest sunset you’ve seen down below. #yosemite @natgeo ♬ Wonder – Shawn Mendes
Can I hike to the waterfall?
Yes, there’s a hiking trail that leads to the waterfall. However, it’s not recommended during the winter months due to icy conditions.
Where is Horsetail Fall located in Yosemite National Park?
When does Horsetail Fall flow and what makes it a unique natural phenomenon?
Horsetail Fall typically only flows during the winter and early spring months when there is snow on top of El Capitan. The exact timing of the flow depends on snowmelt and precipitation levels.
The waterfall is at its most spectacular during mid- to late February when the sun sets in a way that illuminates the waterfall, creating a bright orange and red glow, a phenomenon known as the “firefall effect.”
This unique lighting effect only occurs when the sky is clear and the waterfall is flowing, and it is caused by the angle of the setting sun hitting the waterfall at just the right angle .
When is the best time to catch a glimpse of Horsetail Fall during Yosemites Firefall Week?
During this time, Horsetail Fall flows with water runoff from winter storms, and its streams are fed entirely by snowmelt.
The waterfall drops more than 2,000 feet down the eastern side of El Capitan, and around the second week of February, it displays a deep orange or red glow at sunset .
The exact dates for Firefall Week can vary, but in 2023, the dates are February 10 through 27, and a reservation will be required to drive into Yosemite 24 hours per day on February 10-12, 17-19, and 24-26 .
To increase the chances of seeing the Firefall, visitors should plan to arrive 5 to 15 minutes before sunset . However, conditions must be perfect, and clear skies are necessary for the Firefall to occur. Cloud cover blocking the sun during the critical minutes of the evening can prevent the Firefall from materializing .
Due to the popularity of the event, various restrictions are in effect during mid-to-late February each year, and visitors should check the National Park Service’s website for the latest information .