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Firefall in Yosemite
Photograph: Shutterstock

Yosemite's famous firefall will glow again this month

Here's how to see the rare, natural phenomenon.

Sarah Medina

We don't have to tell you about all the gorgeous natural wonders that exist in Yosemite National Park. From Yosemite Valley to Half Dome, the country's most-visited national park is a sight to behold. But every February, something truly magical happens in Yosemite. We're talking about the famous Yosemite firefall. 

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Have no idea what we're talking about? Let us explain. Every year, at the end of February, the sun hits Horsetail Fall on the east side of El Capitan at just the right angle that it glows a fiery orange at sunset making the waterfall look like a glowing lava stream as it cascades down the mountain. It's incredible to behold, and the annual event, which lasts for just about two weeks, is known to attract over 2,000 visitors and sightseers in a single day. 

In years past, Yosemite has tried to curb the crowds and protect the surrounding flora and fauna—including instituting a reservation system in 2018—but this year, the pandemic has made crowds even more of a concern for the national park. (A far cry from when wolves, deer and bobcats were freely roaming Yosemite while the park was closed.) 

This year's firefall is expected to glow nightly from February 13–25, with restrictions in place from 12–7 p.m. every day. Despite ending its reservation system in November, Yosemite is bringing it back for this month; Starting February 8, reservations are required to enter the park unless you already have a camping or lodging reservation, a wilderness permit, a vacation rental reservation inside the park, or enter via public transit or with an authorized tour group. 

To view the spectacle, visitors will have to park at the Yosemite Falls parking lot and walk one and a half miles (each way) to the viewing area near El Capitan Picnic Area. Roads may be closed to vehicles around the area, and parking, stopping, and unloading passengers will be prohibited in several areas, so be sure to check with the NPS website first if you're thinking of going. And don't forget that it's now mandatory to wear masks on federal land, which includes national parks. 

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