Yosemite – Fire Falls

Visited: February, 2016

As a good Californian, I love Yosemite. One of the most fun and unique days trips to take is to see The Firefall, one of Yosemite National Park’s most amazing spectacles. Every year for one week, for only 10 minutes in the day, the setting sun hits Horsetail Fall at just the right angle making it glow like fire cascading down the side.

We made plans to arrive about two hours early and I was very glad we did! The park makes special driving and parking arrangements for spectators to park and see the site, just follow the signs and park where directed. Even arriving early we still had to walk about three-quarters of a mile to get a good viewing spot.

Hundreds of photographers had flocked, set up camp and were ready for the event. It reminded me of sports tailgaters. Hanging out, eating a picnic, cuddling for warmth.


Since we had plenty of time before sunset, we walked around a bit enjoying Yosemite’s natural surroundings.


Before you make the drive to see The Firefall, there are a couple of things to check for and bring for a good event.

  1. Check the Yosemite National Park website to verify that Horsetail Fall is flowing. A poor snow season or a too cold of a season means the waterfall is not at it’s peak.
  2. The skies and roads must be clear. Clouds, dust, or wildfire smoke will block the sun and Horsetail will not be illuminated enough for the effect. Check the weather forecast. On the day we went, the forecast had slight rain and clear evening and by the time we arrived the sky just had wispy clouds that didn’t effect the Firefall. If the mountains recently received a lot of rain, check the roads for rockfalls and landslides. El Portal entrance into the park is notorious for this problem.
  3. Find parking early and plan your exit. I recommend you park on the Northside drive of Yosemite valley as it will mean a shorter exit without having to loop around Yosemite Valley. Remember where you are and plan when/how to make your exit. Everyone will leave once the show is over. Do you wait until it thins out? Or race back to the car so your not stuck in traffic halfway down the mountain?


  1. Bring warm clothes and gear protection Remember this is February and in the Sierras. There may still be snow on the ground. You want your photography gear and your body to be protected from the elements.
  2. Use the bathroom and bring snacks. The Yosemite services restaurants and stores are not open until Spring (April). So there are very limited bathrooms or food services available. Bring a picnic blanket and food you don’t mind packing in and out are all you need to enjoy the wait until the show.
  3. Gas up the car and bring a flashlight. Gas is more expensive when you are near the park so don’t over pay if you can avoid it. You may use more gas circling for parking and, once the Firefall natural phenomenon is over, you may spend up to an hour in traffic trying to exit the park and then driving down the mountain in the dark. The flashlight was helpful hiking back to our car in the dark 😉

The Firefall is amazing and beautiful. Like pure gold flowing freely and disappearing below. It is definitely something you want to see once in your life, even if it is just to remind us that California really is the Golden State – even if just for a few minutes.



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