The Countdown Begins for the Glorious Return of the Firefall in Yosemite National Park

Adventure seekers and photographers are preparing to flock to Yosemite National Park, trekking through the mounds of snow to see a natural phenomenon that is only visible during a few glorious weeks out of the year.

Horsetail Fall is typically not that unique in Yosemite, where waterfalls are vast and beautiful. It’s a somewhat low-flow waterfall that flows about 1,000 feet down off the eastern edge of El Capitan to the ground. But when the water flows are strong and the lighting is right, this waterfall lights up and appears to be on fire. This phenomenon typically appears for about two weeks at the beginning of February and can cause quite the tourist attraction for people looking for a rare view.

In 2023, with heavy rains drenching California through December and January, the Firefall is set to make a glorious return to the park. But if you haven’t made your plans to see it, you might be out of luck this year.

In order to manage this event, Yosemite National Park officials are requiring a permit for any visitors coming during the weekends of February 10–12, February 17–19, and February 24–26, 2023. It’s unclear when the Firefall will happen in 2023, but it will surely be peaking during one of these weekends. Visitors who first arrive Mondays through Thursdays won’t need a reservation. The $35/car entrance fee is valid for entry for seven days, regardless of day of arrival. 

If you have a lodging reservation for Yosemite Valley, Wawona, Foresta, or Yosemite West, you don’t need an additional reservation. If you have a campground reservation for Upper Pines, Camp 4, Wawona, or Hodgdon Meadow Campgrounds, you don’t need an additional reservation. Reservations will be required at Camp 4, Wawona, and Hodgdon Meadow Campgrounds from February 1 through February 28 (these campgrounds normally operate on a first-come, first-served basis in February).

In the past few years during the Firefall, the surge in visitation has led to full parking lots, parking overflowing into traffic lanes, pedestrian-vehicle conflicts causing safety issues, and damage to natural and cultural resources. The growing interest in the natural phenomenon has caused massive traffic issues during the typical off-time for Yosemite National Park.

So the countdown begins for the epic Firefall in Yosemite. How will it look this year? Only time will tell. Here are our favorite videos/photos of the phenomenon at Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls from the past few years:

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


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