During a two-week span in February, photographers and nature lovers alike flock to Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls to witness one of the planets most beloved natural phenomenons. Aptly named “Firefall,” during the winter month the lighting on the otherwise ordinary waterfall creates a beautiful illusion that the waterfall is on fire. It’s truly a sight to behold.
What Exactly is the Firefall?
The Firefall is a natural phenomenon that only occurs if there’s enough water on Horsetail Falls. That’s why the question remains every single winter – will the Yosemite Firefall happen?
The Firefall appears when there is water flowing from Horsetail Falls, which is typically a low-flow waterfall year round. In years when there is a lot of early-season precipitation in the mountains, the waterfall will come alive and give onlookers the show of a lifetime in the form of what looks to be a waterfall on fire. If there’s no water, there’s no Firefall.
How Will We Know?
As with any natural phenomenon, that question can only be answered when it occurs. This phenomenon usually appears for about two weeks near the end of February and can cause quite the tourist trap for people looking for the rare view. In 2020, Yosemite National Park officials created new guidelines and closed down certain areas of the park to accommodate the growing number of onlookers and photographers coming to see the event. Unfortunately, they were greeted with an underwhelming experience.
That was a far cry from 2019, when heavy water flowing off the mountain created an event for the ages. Anybody lucky enough to be in the area was greeted with the Firefall at its best.
With the typical timeframe of the natural phenomenon coming in the next few weeks, it’s that time of year to begin analyzing the area in an attempt to predict the veracity of this year’s Firefall. With late December and early January seeing plenty of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada, there’s a great chance the Firefall could be in rare form this year. Of course, the precipitation in the next couple of weeks will be the determining factor.
Park officials will most likely set up viewing restrictions again this year, especially with Covid-19 protocols already prevalent throughout the park. In fact, they may even be more strict this year.
While it’s a little early to know if the Firefall will take place this year, our answer is a solid YES. We think there will be more than enough water in the region to create the natural phenomenon. The question remains what restrictions will be in place by the National Park Service.
Get ready for the experience of a lifetime.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine