Guide to Yosemite’s Firefall – a natural phenomenon

STORY BY Debbie 27th January 2020

Every year, visitors to Yosemite National Park make the pilgrimage to see a natural phenomenon that lasts just two weeks in February – the ‘Firefall.’ Firefall is the name for the natural magic trick that creates the illusion when the light of the setting sun hits the waterfall at just the right angle, making it appear that the waterfall is made of pure flame. Only visible for a short time in February, Firefall draws hundreds of visitors each night. How it looks varies from year to year and relies on how much water is flowing in Horsetail Falls.

As Firefall approaches (13 – 29 February), here’s a handy guide to getting the most out of this incredible wonder of nature.


When to go

This year, Firefall has been predicted for 13-29 of February, with the strongest chance of success being from 19 – 22 February. When visitors are there, Horsetail Falls is the place to set up. Tumbling 2,000 feet down the eastern side of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It’s seasonal, flowing only in winter and early spring. Conditions have to be just right to see the glow. Clear skies are paramount – the slightest haze or passing cloud around sunset can ruin the effect.

Where to go

There’s no single perfect viewing spot to see the light show. No permits or passes are required either. Visitors can set up anywhere between Yosemite Falls and the El Capitan picnic area, depending on what view they wish to photograph.

What to bring

A good camera and a sturdy tripod are a must. Visitors should dress warmly, with layers of clothes that should include an outer layer of fleece or puffy down jacket, warm hat and gloves.

Guided Tour

AutoCamp Yosemite gives guests the chance to sign up for a full-day Firefall Experience with REI between 19 – 22 February 2020. The package excludes accommodation, but includes round-trip transport, a full day of touring and a professional photographer who can help visitors get the perfect shot.

For more information, please visit

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