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Yosemite National Park’s firefall, one of the park’s most storied and difficult-to-catch events, returns in less than a week—and unlike last year, visitors won’t need reservations to see it.
The firefall occurs when sunlight hits Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls at just the right angle to light it up in a dazzling, bright orange glow, giving it the appearance of a torrent of lava pouring off the sheer side of El Capitan. It takes place in late winter; a second one can occur in fall during years when heavy rain feeds the usually dry cascade. Park officials estimate that this year’s show will begin on February 10 and run through February 28.
Last February, Yosemite officials instituted a reservation system for the firefall in response to crowding concerns over Covid. This year, no reservations are necessary for visitors to see the firefall; however, due to the popularity of the event, the park has put some restrictions in place. Viewing hours for the firefall will run from noon until 7 p.m. daily, weather permitting, and visitors will all need to wear masks. The park is asking visitors to leave their cars at Yosemite Falls and walk the 1.5 miles to the viewing spot near the El Capitan picnic area. If that lot fills up, a shuttle will carry visitors from Yosemite Village or Curry Village to the falls’ parking lot. Further restrictions on vehicles dropping off visitors along Southside Drive will be in place too. The full rules and regulations are available on the park’s website.
The modern firefall isn’t the first spectacle at Yosemite National Park to use the name: From the 1870s through 1968, hotel and camp owners in the park would push a large bonfire over the edge of Glacier Point at night, creating a literal cascade of fire.