Horsetail Falls, located in Yosemite National Park in California, is a seasonal waterfall that flows in the winter and early spring. In addition, the fall only flows after rain or as the snow melts above El Capitan.
This waterfall, which descends in two small streams side by side, can be viewed from many locations. However, it is best observed and photographed from a small clearing close to the picnic area on the north road leading out of Yosemite Valley east of El Capitan.
On beautiful days, there is an amazing natural phenomenon called “Fire Falls” which attracts thousands of photographers who visit Yosemite National Park in hopes of seeing the famous “Fire Falls” event at Horsetail Falls in February.
The event starts around Valentine Day each year and lasts for about two weeks. What makes it special is that the waterfall is getting glow orange and red like fire and lava, which is the result of being illuminated by the sun. Only when the sun is in just the right spot to reflect off the granite behind the waterfall and cause it to light up, does this event occur?
Furthermore, the sun also needs to be close enough to the horizon to give off its orange light and thus turn the waterfall orange. It is interesting to discover that the name “Fire Falls” also pays homage to the manmade Firefall that once took place in Yosemite.
Horsetail Falls on fire can be viewed and photographed from 3 popular locations:
• The most popular site is El Capitan picnic area (on Northside Drive) as this place provides the closest view. It is better to go further east during the week of the Fire Falls to hit a spectacular spot in late February because it is the moments the sunset moves east.
• The second spot that can give the best angle to see the actual waterfalls is Southside Drive, West, although the falls won’t appear to be on fire from this angle; therefore, you may not have an opportunity to contemplate Fire Falls.
• Finally, an angle which is a bit further southeast than the Picnic Grounds is Southside Drive, East. This place may require you to have a slightly longer lens (about 200mm). From this viewing spot, you can not only capture El Capitan and the falls at the same time but also see the trees and snow above the falls.
It is useful to bring a camera, a telephoto lens, a sturdy tripod, a Cable release/remote control shutter and flashlight as well as warm clothes, lawn chair, snacks, food, water.