For a few weeks in mid-February, Yosemite’s seasonal Horsetail Fall turns into a glowing orange or red streak around sunset, reminding some of the park’s old fire fall tradition.
You can witness this natural phenomena from Feb. 12 to 26 on a guided bus tour or on your own — if conditions are good.
If all goes well, the streak is visible for about 10 minutes. Cloudy skies or lack of water flow would ruin your chances of seeing the glow on the 1,570-foot fall down the east face of El Capitan.
If you want a guided tour, you can take a bus tour with a naturalist who talks about the park’s history, shares some park stories and talks about this lesser-known fall as well as what was known as the Glacier Point Firefall. Then you’ll have a chance to make your own memories from a vista point.
Bus tours depart at 4:30 daily from Yosemite Valley from Feb. 12 to 26. Allow about two hours. Tickets cost $29 for adults, $28 for seniors and $20 for children 5 to 15 years old. You may purchase tickets in advance by calling (888) 304-8993 or in person at the Yosemite Valley Lodge tour desk.
Those who want to go on their own have several options.
To deal with the thousands who come to see Horsetail Fall every year, the park is creating an “event zone” that will close some roads and require a free parking permit to enter. At least 50 permits will be awarded each day at the Ansel Adams Gallery on a first come, first served basis. (Advance online reservations have all been given out.)
Or you can park at Yosemite Falls day parking or El Capitan Meadow and ride the free park shuttle to Stop 7. That leaves you with a 1.2 mile walk (each way) to the viewing spot to see Horsetail Fall. Road restrictions will be in place to control traffic. Info: Horsetail Fall at Yosemite
Horsetail Fall’s glow has been called a “natural fire fall.” The term refers to a tradition in Yosemite’s early years of throwing the embers of a roaring bonfire off the edge of Glacier Point, creating a “waterfall of fire.”
The tradition came to a halt in 1968. In 1973, the late photographer Galen Rowell was among the first to capture the dramatic waning light on Horsetail Fall, and it has been captivating visitors ever since.