If you visit Yosemite National Park in February, you will see what looks like lava flowing off of El Capitan. You might think, could that be possible, a lava flow? Well, not exactly.

Horsetail Fall only flows in winter and early spring when snow is present on top of El Capitan. Between this special waterfall and the angle of the sun on afternoons in mid- to late February, this setting sun can cause the water flow to glow orange, mimicking lava. This beautiful phenomenon is called the Yosemite firefall.

Even though this natural beauty has been around for quite a while, it wasn’t until 1973 after National Geographic photographer Galen Rowell snapped an image of the glowing light that the popularity began.

Where To Take Photos

Due to this popularity, Yosemite National Park had to set up a few restrictions. Though it offers some of the best views of Horsetail Fall, there is a restricted zone from Yosemite Valley Lodge to El Capitan Crossover. However, there are still great views from anywhere between Yosemite Falls and the El Capitan picnic area.

When To Take Photos

Despite the popularity, you need to know when the best time to visit the firefall. Certain conditions preclude the firefall actually occurring, including snowmelts, sky conditions, and the right angles. “If conditions are not perfect, the Yosemite Firefall will not glow,” according to the Yosemite Firefall website.

Photographer Aaron Meyers has calculated optimal viewing dates for 2020 — February 12 through 28 — with the best projected time between 5:28 and 5:40 p.m. on February 22.

How To Take The Best Photos

As you prepare to take photos of the firefall, make sure to have a good camera and a tripod. These are two key pieces of equipment you will need to produce the best work. If you want to know six important tips for how to take firefall photos, the Yosemite Firefall website offers the when and where to help you.

Are you are a more skilled photographer? Aaron Meyers offers specifics, including 3 popular locations, recommended settings, what to bring, and some photos Aaron has taken.

Staying At Yosemite

You can stay within Yosemite during the winter season. There might not be as many places to stay, but you still have options. There are some camping areas to take advantage of, even during these cold months.

Here at The Camping Page, we have 10 awesome tips for winter camping. This includes choosing the right gear and how to stay warm. Winter camping doesn’t have to be just for the brave and the bold. Read additional tips to enjoy a 1,000-star hotel out in the open sky.