Every mid-to-late February, Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park gets a lot of attention.
The fall is kind of small and not terribly impressive, except for about two weeks when conditions make it look like fire descending over the edge of El Capitan. These conditions are sunset, a clear sky, and enough snow to get the water flowing.
This “firefall” effect has become so popular, the park can become crowded with onlookers and photographers hoping to catch a glimpse of nature’s show. Here’s why:
If the threat of thousands of park-goers doesn’t deter you, you too see Horsetail Falls in person. Per the National Park Service website:
To see Horsetail Fall, park at the El Capitan picnic area (on Northside Drive west of Yosemite Valley Lodge, formerly Yosemite Lodge) or in turnouts just east of the picnic area. You can see the waterfall from the road.
They also say this, so be forewarned:
Horsetail Fall at sunset can draw thousands of onlookers, causing significant parking and traffic issues. Parking is limited and shuttle service is not available. Vehicles parked off road or obstructing traffic may be impounded, towed, and cited.
Here are directions to get to Yosemite, which is about an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Fresno. Make sure to check ahead for road conditions, as the rainy and snowy weather can affect certain routes. If the weather is rainy (which is likely for the next couple of days), you might not want to bother as clear skies are needed to see the firefall effect.
Cost to enter Yosemite Park is $30 per vehicle.
About the Photo
The above photo was taken four days ago by photographer Sangeeta Dey, who writes:
I am aware of two locations from where you can see this. The first one is the El Captain picnic area, which is on the northside. This is the one I will recommend to people who are planning to be there with children as this spot has picnic area and restrooms.
The second location, and the place where I got my shot, is on the southside. It is hard to give that exact location because there are no markers. Basically, just go past the Cathedral beach area and keep driving with your eyes on the El Captain. Also try to look closely for the Horse tail waterfall as it is very easy to miss. Just keep driving (approximately a mile) till you are positioned on the right side of the waterfall.
Park your car and take a walk towards the river to make sure you have a view of the waterfall on your left side. It is likely that you will see other photographers there and that will tell you that you are at the right spot. Get there by 11 AM (or even earlier). The show starts 10-15 minutes before the sunset. Most importantly, if it is a cloudy day, skip it and go explore other parts of the park as sunlight is the key ingredient for this to happen.
Sangeeta, who gave us permission to use her photo, is an amazing photographer, and I highly recommend taking a look at the photos on her Facebook page. If you’re a fan of nature and landscape photos, seriously, give these a look.