Yosemite’s ‘firefall’ returns for two weeks this February

It’s that time of year again when nature enthusiasts flock to Yosemite National Park to catch a glimpse of the annual natural phenomenon known as “firefall.”

Firefall occurs almost every year during the last two weeks of February when Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall, a seasonal waterfall that flows over the eastern edge of El Captain, lights up at dusk with fiery orange and red hues that resemble falling lava. 

The unique lighting effect can only be seen on evenings when skies are clear and the sun sets at the right angle to illuminate the waterfall. Even the slightest bit of cloudiness or fog can diminish the effect, which is only visible for about 10 minutes. 

Additionally, there must be enough water from melted snow in Horsetail Fall for the firefall to take place.

“If it is exceptionally cold, the cliff surrounding the waterfall will still light up, and the trickle of water coming over the edge will reflect the setting sun, but you won’t see the stream of molten fire unless there is more water,” Yosemite National Park’s website warns.

Spectators can get the best view of firefall from the El Captain picnic area and the Southside drive before the Four-Mile Trailhead.