Every year from mid to late February, for a few fleeting moments, if the conditions are exactly right, the Horsetail waterfalls illuminate into a spectacular orange spectrum, as the water reflects the setting sun. For this to happen though, the temperatures need to be within a certain range, so that there’s a sufficient amount of snow and water flowing. Additionally, the skies need to be perfectly clear so nothing interferes with the rays of light which makes it quite a rare sight indeed.
To see the evanescent sighting, however, you’ll have to work for it! Unsurprisingly, the ‘firefall’ has become a darling of the internet, with people flocking from far and wide, armed with tripods and intimidating zoom lenses hoping to capture the moment. As a result, park officials have moved parking further away from the falls and getting to it involves a bit of a hike through the snow.
While capacity limits are the norm, this year they’ll be even tighter—which is a real treat for anyone who manages to get tickets. If you do plan to go, you’ll need to make a reservation online at recreation.gov. Prime glow time is between February 10 and February 28, according to the National Park Service (NPS). However, this is the tentative period set out but it is subject to change.
Fire for your feed
So, is the social feed gold worth the 3-mile hike? Well, maybe these will help you decide…
Although cloudy conditions may deter some, there is always a possibility that they will part for a brief second, creating this enchanting pink display
If all the stars align, the waterfall looks as if a flame is cascading down the shoulder of El Capitan, which is how it came to be known as the “Firefall”. This is often confused with a completely unrelated event in the park, that began in 1872 of the same name, whereby a giant bonfire was thrust off a cliff at Glacier point. The spectacle came out of Glacier Point Hotel’s marketing department, but luckily everyone came to their senses around 1968 and it hasn’t happened since, according to Yosemite Mariposa County Bureau.
If there’s a strong waterfall, the water vapor creates a vivid halo that appears more like a wild flame. This type of shot is likely to do the rounds on news channels and be mislabeled as a natural disaster, but it’s still seriously pretty.
In the last few seconds of sunlight, the water creates a stunning deep orange glow, making it look more like molten lava than freshwater.
You can find all the 2023 firewall details here.
Featured Image: Cedric Letsch on Unsplash