You’ve probably seen the striking image on your Instagram feed: a towering stone wall cut through the center by what appears to be a flow of glowing lava flowing down the rock face.
The sight of Yosemite National Park – not really a lava flow but a waterfall flowing over the face of El Capitan and dramatically illuminated by a February sunset, has captured the interest of millions and attracted crowds of park visitors.
Next year, for the second year in a row, reservations will be required to enter the park during peak ‘firefall’ hours, as the phenomenon is known.
The firefall occurs in a tiny window in late February when the setting sun hits Horsetail Fall at right angles and water pours down from the winter rains. It has become a huge draw for nature photographers, professional and amateur, and tourists hoping to capture the perfect National Geographic-worthy shot.
Due to overwhelming demand, which has damaged park grounds, reservations will be required to enter Yosemite on the weekends of February 10-12, February 17-19, and February 24-26, even for those who do not not visit Horsetail Falls. Additionally, campsites generally available on a first-come, first-served basis will also require reservations between February 1 and February 28.
“Historically, the sunset backlight over Horsetail Fall was little known,” Yosemite National Park said on its website. “However, in recent years, visits around this event have increased significantly.”
In 2019, more than 2,000 visitors to the site “congregated in areas mostly lacking adequate parking and other facilities”.
Visitors piled onto the banks, increasing erosion and trampling vegetation, the park said.
“As the banks filled in, visitors moved through the Merced River, trampling sensitive vegetation and exposing themselves to hazardous conditions,” the park said. “Some undeveloped areas were littered with rubbish and the lack of toilets led to unsanitary conditions.”
Reservations to enter Yosemite are rarely implemented, although they are required for some campsites and other amenities and have been used throughout the park in recent years.
Reservations were needed in 2020 and 2021 to limit crowds due to the pandemic, and this summer “when many key tourist attractions were closed for critical infrastructure repairs”.
$2 day-use reservations for peak fire weekends will be available in two waves; 50% of reservations will be available online at 8:00 a.m. Pacific on January 13. The remaining 50% will be made available two days before each booking date.
For example, reservations for February 24 will open on February 22.
Reservations for affected campsites (Wawona Campgrounds, Camp 4 and Hodgdon Meadow) will be released on December 15 at 7 a.m. Pacific.
Reservations will be available on Recreation.gov.
California Daily Newspapers