Sunday, August 9, 2015

Video of natural, rare firefall in Yosemite

Day hikers can enjoy a spectacular natural firefall in Yosemite Valley a few days each winter – if events conspire to their favor.

The second week of February, around 5:30 p.m. local time, the setting sun illuminates the upper reaches of Horse Tail Fall so that the water flows orange and red, as if glowing lava. The waterfall tumbles 1,570 feet down El Capitan’s east face.

Here’s a video of a recent firefall:

Unfortunately, the firefall doesn’t occur every year. There must be enough snowpack, and temperatures must be warm enough to melt it so that water can flow. In addition, the western sky also must be clear at sunset. In fact, a firefall is quite rare.

Just how rare? The famous John Muir never noted a firefall at Horsetail Fall despite several years of living in and exploring the park.

So this winter watch the snowpack and temperature reports for Yosemite to determine if you should visit in February. If you do, a pullouts for Horse Tail Fall and El Capitan off of Northside Drive offers great views. A walking trail parallels the Merced River both east and west of the pullouts.

Also see:
Connecting trails take day hikers past El Capitan, two major waterfalls

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.