Yosemite’s Rare Firefall is the Most Beautiful Waterfall You’ll See

Instagram | sfgate

There are many reasons to explore Yosemite National Park year-round. Visitors come from around the world to enjoy hiking, camping, rock-climbing and more. While the summer is a popular time of year to visit, a rare mid-winter event may convince you to book a trip much sooner. A firefall may return for a fleeting appearance in late February at the park — that is, if everything comes together just right.

On an ordinary day, the waterfalls and rock formations around the park are beautiful. This rare sight is truly spectacular. However, conditions must be perfect to create the firefall.

First, the Horsetail Fall must be flowing. When there’s enough snow in the previous months and the temperature is just right, the waterfall flows 1,570 feet down the east face of El Capitan. That water comes from runoff from the melting snow.


For a firefall, the western sky must be clear, which allows the sun’s rays to shine directly on the waterfall and illuminate the water in such a way that it looks like glowing lava is tumbling down the rocks.

If everything converges just so, the resulting sight and pictures are stunning. Even though there’s no guarantee the firefall will occur, millions of people flock to the park for a chance to see it themselves.


“Finally, as the sun’s rays moved towards the fall, I saw the color of the water changing,” photographer Sangeeta Dey shared with National Geographic. “As [the waterfall] glowed in yellows, oranges and reds, I realized I had tears flowing down. It was a very emotional moment for me.”


Before you start travel planning, take a look at some spectacular firefall snaps from photographers.


The firefall is so incredible, it doesn’t need a filter. In fact, this visitor preferred the original photo over an edited version.


SFGate shared multiple shots from visitors to commemorate the rare sight.



Even furry friends appreciate this incredible waterfall.


Even though the appearance of this firey sight is brief, it brings together hundreds of people hoping for the perfect shot.


As long as the conditions are right, we can look forward to more stunning snaps this February. So get your camera fired up for the firefall!


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About the Author
Jennifer Nied
Jennifer Nied is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She focuses on beauty, wellness, and travel stories with a background covering the spa industry.

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