Photographers Gather To Capture Firefall Phenomenon At Yosemite

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 17 Feb 2020 17:33
Photographers Gather To Capture Firefall Phenomenon At YosemitePA

Each year thousands of people visit Yosemite in February in hope of snapping a picture of the epic ‘firefall’ moment – and the photos taken are pretty spectacular. 

Horsetail Fall, which falls a whopping 2,030 feet, is a seasonal waterfall and usually only falls during winter. This month in particular, the sun sets in the perfect spot giving the effect that the waterfall is on fire.


For many years, it was just pot luck when the perfect picture grabbing moment would be, but engineer and photographer Aarron Meyers actually created a computer program that calculates the best angle of the sun for ‘optimal viewing’.

On his website, Aaron says: 

Each year thousands of photographers visit Yosemite National Park in hopes of seeing the famous ”Fire Falls” event at Horsetail Falls. Horsetail Falls is a seasonal waterfall that only flows after rain or as the snow melts above El Capitan.

It’s located on the east side of El Capitan and can be viewed from a number of locations. This event occurs when the sun is in just the right spot to reflect off the granite behind the waterfall and cause it to light up. The sun also needs to be close to the horizon to give off its orange light and thus turn the waterfall orange. It’s amazing how much like fire and lava the water becomes! The event starts around Valentines Day each year and continues for about 2 weeks.


Through his computer system, Aaron has predicted the best day this year to view the waterfall will be February 22 between 5.28pm and 5.40pm – a measly eight minute bracket to grab the perfect picture.

Other days that are ‘better’ to visit it will be between February 19-24 and ‘good’ viewing will be February 15-18 and 25-27.

According to the National Park Service, on February 22 last year over 2,000 people went to Yosemite to try see the epic ‘firefall’ for themselves.


As there were so many people wanting to see the amazing moment, park service this year will close two of the ideal viewing areas, requiring everyone to walk 1.5 miles to the the third remaining one.

Their website said: 

Historically, the sunset backlight on Horsetail Fall was little known. However, in recent years, visitation around this event has increased dramatically. For example, on February 22, 2019, over 2,000 visitors viewing Horsetail Fall gathered in areas mostly lacking adequate parking and other facilities. Visitors spilled onto riverbanks, increasing erosion and trampling vegetation.

As riverbanks filled, visitors moved into the Merced River, trampling sensitive vegetation and exposing themselves to unsafe conditions. Some undeveloped areas became littered with trash, and the lack of restrooms resulted in unsanitary conditions.


So, if you’re going to visit Horsetail Fall during peak times, make sure you plan your trip in advance and be wary not to damage the surrounding nature when trying to find the best viewing spots.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Life, America, Nature, Photography


National Park Service and 1 other
  1. National Park Service

    Horsetail Fall

  2. Aaron Meyers Photography