During the pandemic, many national parks started to require reservations because of the enormous crowds they were attracting. They finally stopped having reservations when people began to return to normal, indoor vacations and crowds decreased. Now, until the end of the month, Yosemite has brought them back in response to the influx of visitors who want to see the firefall that occurs between Feb. 10 and Feb. 27.
You need a reservation to enter the part 24 hours a day. Parking is limited, and even campgrounds that are usually first-come, first-serve now require booking. It’s all because people want to see the sunset hit the water on Horsetail Falls. For a few weeks a year, the sunset’s light hits the water at the exact angle to make it look like lava is flowing down the cliff face of El Capitan.
“When the sun drops at the exact right angle, it reflects upon El Capitan,” said Yosemite National Park public affairs officer Scott Gediman. “It’s a combination of the sun reflecting on the water, clear skies, water flowing… If all of that comes together, it’s magical.”
Unlike real lava, which is terribly dangerous and you should flee from, people are gathering in huge numbers to watch the event.
The waterfall itself is seasonal. It is fed by melting snow water. Therefore it only exists in spring. However, this past winter, Neuliven Health’s home state of California had record snow levels. For the phenomena to occur, it can’t be freezing when the sunsets or the river freezes over, and the water flow will stop. And it has to be a sunny clear day.
If you want to visit there’s a complete list of rules on the park’s website. Remember, even though the park is in sunny California, it’s still cold here! Bring warm clothes. And bring a headlamp. You’ll have to hike back from the viewing spot after the sun has set. The viewing spot is a 1.5-mile hike from a parking lot. You used to be able to get closer, but people trampled over so many sensitive plants and left so much trash behind them that areas near the fall were blocked off to protect them.
People who have gone have said it’s worth the trip even if you don’t catch a glimpse of the firefall. There’s a wonderful camaraderie between the hikers hoping to see something breathtaking together.
Thirteen-year-old Henry Cody said, “We’ve been [to Yosemite National Park] a couple times and it’s so, so cool. So pretty. So even if we don’t see the firefall, I think it’ll still be worth it to be here.”
His mother, Tammy Cody, said, “When I saw there were openings for lodging for firefall, I knew that we had to at least try. We come a lot to Yosemite. So, we know that it’s crowded. We get to be part of like this huge group of people that’s also really stoked to see something like this.”
If you have the chance, go, you might see an amazing view you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Or you might see nothing but a cliff face, and you’ll make new friends. Either way, you’ll be in Yosemite, and that’s a beautiful spot to be in!