NWS Weather Update as of Sunday Morning, February 11, 2018:
Of foremost importance is the lack of model projected moisture or qpf with this low. Yes, the track is favorable for some threat of rain and low elevation snow however projected amounts remain generally under one-tenth of an inch in most locations.
A 30 percent chance of rain after 4pm. Increasing clouds, with a high near 54. North wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 15 mph.
A chance of rain before 10pm, then a slight chance of snow after 4am. Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly clear, with a low around 32. South wind around 5 mph becoming north northeast in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
A slight chance of snow before 10am, then rain and snow likely between 10am and 4pm, then a chance of rain after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 45. Light and variable wind becoming west southwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
A chance of rain before 10pm, then a chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 34. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph in the evening. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
Then Sunny Days Through at Least Saturday
As of February 6, 2018, Horsetail Fall is dry, with no precipitation in the forecast.
Additionally, few, if any, permit reservations are available. However, some permits are available on a first-come, first-served basis each day.
February 11, 2018 - Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It's a small waterfall that many people don't notice, but it has gained popularity as more and more people have noticed it can glow orange during sunset in mid- to late February, in a way reminiscent of the Firefall that occurred historically from Glacier Point.
The "firefall" effect happens during the second half of February when there is a clear sky and enough snow for the waterfall to flow. Even some haze or minor cloudiness can greatly diminish or eliminate the effect.
(Left) Firefall over Glacier Point (left) and Horsetail Fall illuminated by sunset (right). Firefall photo (left) courtesy of the Yosemite Archives. Horsetail Fall photo (right) by Christine Fey.
Permit Required for Vehicle Access in 2018
In light of the growing popularity of the Horsetail Fall sunset phenomenon, known colloquially as the natural firefall, to provide a better visitor experience and to address safety concerns, the National Park Service will be managing vehicular traffic on Northside Drive in Yosemite Valley. From Monday, February 12 to Monday, 26, 2018, Northside Drive between Yosemite Valley Lodge and El Capitan Crossover will be closed to unpermitted private vehicular access and parking. If you wish to experience this event, you may walk to viewpoints, take guided tours with Yosemite Hospitality, or obtain a parking permit for this portion of Northside Drive. Reservations for 250 parking permits are available online through The Ansel Adams Gallery.
The reservation is not a permit. If you receive a reservation, you must pick up your parking permit at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley on the day reserved. Permits are non-transferable. Rain checks are not available.
Reservations are free and limited to one per vehicle per day. If you want reservations for multiple vehicles or multiple days, you must make multiple reservations. Reservations are available up until 8:30 am on the day of the permit, each day of the event.
Registering for a reservation will require vehicle information, including license plate number, make, model, and color. Please have this information handy before you begin. If you will be visiting Yosemite in a rental vehicle, please note “Rental” in the space for license plate number, and bring your rental car contract with you when you pick up the permit.
At least 50 first-come, first-served permits will be available daily at The Ansel Adams Gallery at 9 am.
If you do not have a parking permit, you will be able to reach viewing areas on foot. Guided tours are available through Yosemite Hospitality (reservations required).
Viewing Horsetail Fall Without a Permit Reservation
Even if you don’t have a reservation, you can still experience this remarkable phenomenon. Viewing areas are within walking distance of Yosemite Valley Lodge (accessible by shuttle bus) and El Capitan (limited parking), and, depending on how ambitious you are, points further east or west. No parking will be available along Southside Drive between El Capitan Crossover and the Yosemite Chapel.
Yosemite Hospitality will be running special interpretive tours each day of the event (reservations required).
There will be 50 unreserved permits available, for that day, each day from February 12 to February 26 at The Ansel Adams Gallery.
Unreserved Private Vehicle Parking Permits
The Ansel Adams Gallery will open at 9 am to accommodate visitors seeking permits on a first-come, first-served basis for permits for that day.
- Bring your vehicle registration or car rental contract.
- One permit will be issued per vehicle registration per day.
- Chances are it will be cold; please dress appropriately. The average low temperature in February is 30°F (-1°C).
- There may be a line.
You can only pick up parking permits on corresponding day of the event. If you have a reservation for a future date, permits for those days will only be available for pick up on that day of the event.
Yosemite Hospitality Tours
Yosemite Hospitality, which is the primary concessioner in Yosemite, will be offering tours with interpretive guides each day of the phenomenon.
Download pedestrian map [800 kb JPG]
You can walk to see the phenomenon from different areas. Recognize, however, that this happens at sundown, so walking back will be dark, cold, and probably icy. Dress appropriately, bring a flashlight or headlamp. Gloves and a warm hat will warm your heart. Lug-soled boots or shoes are best in snow, and walking sticks will help maintain balance on slippery trails.
It may be snowing (in which case, the phenomenon probably won’t happen) or there may be snow on the ground. The closest area to walk from is Yosemite Valley Lodge. From there to various viewing points is a minimum of 1.2 miles (2 km) one way.
The regular free Valley shuttle bus will run the normal route, which does NOT include the associated reserved parking corridor along Northside Drive. The shuttle bus stop that offers the closest pedestrian access to the viewing area is at Camp 4.
Still Have Questions?
Read our answers to frequently asked questions.