A rare ‘firefall’ will be happening soon at Yosemite

You’ve got to be a special kind of person to find the Yosemite firefall — tenacious, punctual, lucky and willing to face defeat with a laugh.

An annual phenomenon, the firefall is created at the moment the setting sun casts its light on Horsetail Fall, a waterfall on the east side of El Capitan. When spotted at just the right moment, the cascading water looks a lot like flowing lava, or a river of fire. Amazing, right?

The catch is that a lot of dominoes have to fall into place to produce that incredible effect. First and foremost, there has to be enough water flowing over the cliff to make a waterfall. In dry years, Horsetail Fall is just a trickle.

Next, of course, the weather’s got to cooperate. A clear sky is essential.

“Even some haze or minor cloudiness can greatly diminish or eliminate the effect,” reads Yosemite’s website.

Finally, firefall fans have to be in the right place at the right time. From Feb. 14 to 27, the park accommodates firefall watchers by streamlining the access points to the best viewing spots. Folks with disability placards can park on-site at the El Capitan Picnic Area; others have to park at a separate location 1.5 miles away.

Yeah, that’s a 3-mile roundtrip trek. And you’re probably going to want to haul along a camp chair and some water and snacks.

But if you’re treated to a sight like this — from Instagrammer @c.by.eva — it’ll all be worth it:


The Los Angeles Times notes that no permits or credentials are necessary to go hunting for the perfect vantage point. You also don’t have to go to the El Capitan Picnic Area to set up. That’s just a popular viewpoint to watch and wait for the big moment.

What an awesome sight! Good luck out there, intrepid nature buffs!

Science & Nature, Travel

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About the Author
Kathleen St. John
Kathleen St. John is a freelance journalist. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids and a fiercely protective Chihuahua. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kathleen's work.

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