Yosemite’s ‘Firefall’ Phenomenon Is Back — and You'll Need a Reservation to See It This Year

Find out which weekends will require a reservation.

Yosemite at firefall in 2022.

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Visitors heading to Yosemite National Park to see the park’s rare “firefall" phenomenon will need a reservation this year as the National Park Service (NPS) works to control crowding. 

The yearly event occurs when the park’s Horsetail Fall is backlit by the sunset, causing it to glow like it’s on fire, an optical illusion that looks like a cascading stream of lava down the eastern edge of the famous El Capitan. The event, typically in mid- to late February, is amazing to see, and draws immense crowds. In fact, last year, more than 2,400 visitors came in just one day.

To control the crowds, the NPS is requiring reservations to enter the park on the weekends of Feb. 10 to Feb. 12, Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, and Feb. 24 to Feb. 26, regardless if people plan to visit Horsetail Fall or not. Reservations will not be required on Mondays through Thursdays.

Each day-use reservation is expected to be released online at 8 a.m. PT two days in advance. 

“Horsetail Fall can glow orange when it's backlit by sunset, which can make it appear to be on fire. This unique lighting effect happens only on evenings with a clear sky when the waterfall is flowing and when the sun is at the right angle in mid– to late February,” the NPS wrote in its advisory. “This event attracts many visitors to a small area, causing traffic congestion, parking issues, safety concerns, and impacts to natural and cultural resources.”

Travelers who already have a day-use reservation, select campground or lodging reservations, or a commercial use authorization will not need an additional reservation to enter the park.

To view the event, visitors can park at the Yosemite Falls parking area and walk 1.5 miles to the viewing area near the El Capitan Picnic Area, according to the NPS. Additional parking is available at Yosemite Village or Curry Village with a free shuttle service.

While the NPS is limiting crowds for “firefall,” reservations will not be required to visit Yosemite during the summer.

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