By Andrea Romano
January 29, 2020

There are a few natural phenomena that every person should see in their lifetime: a solar eclipse, the northern lights, and the Yosemite National Park firefall.

Yosemite's firefall usually occurs in February, when on a clear evening, the setting sun reflects brilliant colors like red and orange on the waters of Horsetail Fall, according to Lonely Planet. The bright red and orange hues make the waterfall appear as if it’s overflowing with lava (hence the name, “firefall”). This is not to be confused with the other Yosemite Firefall, which was a summertime event held between 1872 and 1968, in which smoldering hot embers were spilled from the top of Glacier Point into the valley of Yosemite National Park, according to Yosemite.com.

This wintertime spectacle typically happens between five and 15 minutes before sundown, usually in late February, Lonely Planet reported. Many people flock to Horsetail Fall, which flows over the famous El Capitan, to get a glimpse of the glow. Most people also try and find a lookout spot in the late morning or early afternoon to get a good view.

Yajnesh Bhat / 500px/Getty Images

This year, according to the National Park Service, there are some restrictions for vehicles from Feb. 14 through 27, between noon and 7 p.m. Instead of driving straight to the El Capitan Picnic Area, guests must park at the Yosemite Falls parking lot and walk one-and-a-half miles (each way) to a special viewing area nearby, according to the NPS website. Northside Drive will have one lane closed to vehicles, so pedestrians can walk safely to their viewing spot. Plus, there will be no access between Camp 4 and the El Capitan Crossover. One exception: Vehicles with a disability placard will be able to drive up to the El Capitan Picnic Area and park.

There are also some similar restrictions for people coming from Southside Drive. These restrictions are due to firefall becoming a major attraction over the years, leading to inadequate parking, litter, vegetation damage, erosion, and unsanitary conditions. These rules are in place to keep visitors and the surrounding environment safe.

Since it’s the middle of winter and the event takes place close to sundown, visitors are encouraged to bring warm clothes and flashlights or headlamps, according to the NPS website.

This event is totally free, and there is no permit required. More information about restrictions in the area and how to view the firefall can be found on the NPS website.

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