Want to See Yosemite’s Firefall? You’ll Have to Move Fast

Starting on February 8, Yosemite will cap visitor numbers by requiring day-use permits, and reservations for this year's annual spectacle are expected to sell out.

Photo: Peter Valverde (CC BY 2.0)

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Every year, sunlight and water come together to produce a breathtaking illusion in one of America’s most popular national parks: Yosemite’s firefall. For a few weeks, the angle of the setting sun illuminates the park’s Horsetail Falls and makes it look like a torrent of flame tumbling off of a cliff. If you’re planning on seeing it this year, however, you’ll need to plan ahead.

With California still reporting nearly 20,000 new Covid cases every day, Yosemite National Park will require visitors to reserve day passes starting on February 8 in order to limit crowding inside the park during this year’s spectacle, which the National Park Service estimates will peak between February 13 and 25. The park required visitors to purchase permits when it reopened in June last year, but suspended the program starting in November, as park officials said they expected lower visitor numbers over the winter.

Reservations cost $2, and will be deducted from the $35-per-car entry fee; visitors with an annual or lifetime pass only need to pay the $2. Reservation-holders must enter the park on the day indicated on their pass; after that, the pass is good for 7 days and allows an unlimited number of re-entries. Make them on Recreation.gov.

Backpacker encourages readers to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow local health departments’ guidance.