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Published January 30, 2024

When and Where to See Yosemite’s Glowing Firefall

Don't miss this year's "waterfall of fire" phenomenon. 🌄

by San Francisco Bucket List

 

Yosemite National Park, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and awe-inspiring natural wonders, is also home to a rare phenomenon that takes place in late winter. For a few days each February, Horsetail Fall—a smaller, seasonal waterfall located on the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley—is illuminated by the setting sun, transforming it into a glowing cascade of fiery hues. Here's everything you need to know about Yosemite's glowing Firefall, including when and where to witness the magical display.


Everything to Know About Yosemite's 2024 Firefall

When to See Yosemite's Firefall

The Yosemite Firefall is a seasonal occurrence, typically visible in mid-late February. This year's Firefall is estimated to be visible starting around February 10th. The exact timing depends on several factors, such as weather conditions, water flow, and the angle of the setting sun. It can take some serious luck to catch it, but the sight is worth the trip. The optimal viewing time is about 15 minutes before sunset, but plan to arrive a few hours early to snag a good viewing spot. To increase your chances of witnessing it, keep an eye on park updates and social media for real-time information on the best viewing dates.

Where to Witness Yosemite's Firefall

Horsetail Fall, the focal point of the Firefall, is located on the eastern side of El Capitan, one of Yosemite's iconic granite monoliths. The best vantage points for viewing the Firefall are from specific locations in the park, offering unobstructed views of the waterfall and the setting sun. Plan for crowds, and make sure to have fresh battery life in your cameras and phones! A few optimal viewing spots include:

  • El Capitan Picnic Area: Positioned along Northside Drive, the El Capitan Picnic Area provides an excellent view of Horsetail Fall. Arrive early to secure a good spot, as this location tends to attract a significant number of spectators during the Firefall season.

  • Southside Drive Viewpoints: Several pullouts along Southside Drive offer panoramic views of Horsetail Fall and El Capitan. These spots are accessible by car, allowing for a convenient viewing experience.

  • Swinging Bridge Picnic Area: The Swinging Bridge Picnic Area, located near the Chapel, offers an alternative perspective of the Firefall. From here, you can enjoy a more secluded atmosphere while taking in the magical glow of the waterfall.

 

Things to Keep in Mind

  • It’s snow season in Yosemite in February, so dress warm, pack layers, and bring a flashlight!
  • Reservations are required to drive into Yosemite on Saturdays and Sundays from February 10th through 25th and on President's Day on Monday, February 19th.
  • The closest parking to Horsetail Fall is the Yosemite Falls Parking Area near Yosemite Valley Lodge. Since there will only be one lane for traffic during this period, there is no parking, stopping or unloading passengers. If these parking areas are full, visitors can park at Yosemite Village, where a free shuttle transports guests from Yosemite Village to the Yosemite Falls Parking Area at Yosemite Valley Lodge.

 

Find more information about Yosemite's Firefall here.

 

EXPLORE MORE:
The National Park Service Will Offer Six Free Entrance Days in 2024
10 Scenic Hikes in San Francisco
30+ Fun Activities in San Francisco That Don't Involve Alcohol or Food

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