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Yosemite's 'Firefall' Phenomenon May Not Happen This Year

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 4 days ago Bridget Hallinan

a canyon with a mountain in the background © Getty Every February in Yosemite National Park, the beginning of the month is marked by a brilliant orange phenomenon: The "firefall," also known as the event which transforms Horsetail Falls into a fiery cascade over rock formation El Capitan when the sunset hits the water. However, a particularly dry season this year has resulted in no flowing water, and the "firefall" may not happen, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Although last February saw multiple heavy storms, only a few small ones have hit the area so far—not nearly enough to get Horsetail Falls running.

"We had some weather coming through today, a little precipitation and light snow flurries," park spokesperson Scott Gediman told the Chronicle on Monday, when the "firefall" was first supposed to appear—the projected viewing period is from February 12 to February 26. "Whether that results in water, we'll have to see." As of that interview, water still wasn't running, so now would be a good time to break out into those dances we used to do when we were kids hoping for a snow day: If you're reading this, turn your PJs inside out and put a spoon under your pillow.

But even if "firefall" does happen—and we're really hoping it does—you're going to need a reservation and permit to see the falls up close (don't worry, they're free). To ensure visitor safety and reduce traffic, the National Park Servicehas closed Northside Drive, which is where most firefall-seekers park, to non-permit vehicles from February 12 to February 26. As reported by Mercury News, 50 permits will be sold each day during this period, allowing visitors to access Northside Drive between Yosemite Valley Lodge and the El Capitan Crossover. They're first-come, first-serve, limited to one vehicle, and you can get them at the Ansel Adams Gallery, which is located between the visitor center and post office. You can also reserve permits online, but it has to be before 8:30 a.m. day-of, and you pick them up at the gallery—just act fast, as most dates are already taken on the Eventbrite page.

Considering that around 1,000 tourists make the trek to Yosemite each year for the "firefall," you may not get a reservation—50 permits for 15 days only amounts to 750 overall. Luckily, you can still check out the colorful display from a designated viewing area, which you can reach by shuttle from the Yosemite Valley Lodge. It's a little farther out from the falls, but the unique sight of a fire-orange waterfall will be well worth it. Here's to hoping California gets all the rain and snow in the next few days.

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