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, Yosemite 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.
Thousands of people flock to the El Capitan Picnic Area to see the natural phenomenon, so plan accordingly for extensive crowds. Anyone entering the park on the weekends of Feb. 10-11, 17-19, and 24-25 will need to reserve a $35 Temporary Vehicle Registration, so keep a close eye on recreation.gov to snag one.
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.