Horsetail Fall is a small waterfall located on the eastern edge of the El Capitan mountain in the Yosemite Valley. Every year, from mid to late February, when the fall is flowing, it takes a beautiful and bright orange glow at sunset. The striking phenomenon gives the impression that lava is flowing down the mountain. For a true firefall to take effect, however, there need to be clear skies and enough snow to allow water to flow, so plan your visit accordingly.
This year, unlike in 2018, the National Park Service is not requiring a permit or reservation to see Horsetail Fall. Since the closest parking options are in the Yosemite Falls Parking Area near the Yosemite Valley Lodge, you should be prepared to hike at least a mile from your car to the nearest viewpoints.
The term “firefall” was first used to describe a practice that occurred at Yosemite’s Glacier Point as early as 1873. Campfires built for guests near the edge of Glacier Point, where the Glacier Point Hotel used to stand, were pushed off the edge, creating the illusion of a stream set ablaze. That practice has since been outlawed, however, for safety reasons.
To view the “firefall” in 2019, visit the park anytime from now through February 24, with peak viewing projected for next week.