Horsetail Fall is seasonal waterfall that flows in winter and early spring. The fall comes off the El Capitan mountain in two distinct streams and drops some 1,570 feet onto steep slabs, spraying up in a mist before continuing down another 500 feet to the bottom of the mountain.
But as beautiful as the fall is by itself, it is the few days every year during the last two weeks of February when it becomes the “firefall” that people wait for.
As the sun sets, and dips behind the horizon line, everything will begin to go dark and it will seem, for a moment, as if the firefall has failed to ignite. But as the last of the sunlight disappears it will hit and reflect off the falls at the exact right angle creating a spectacular, if short-lived, effect that looks like a beautiful flowing cascade of fluid fire.
It may look like a ribbon of cascading lava, but a so-called “Firefall” is actually a regular waterfall illuminated by the bright light of the setting sun.
Almost every mid-to late-February, Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall — a seasonal waterfall that flows when the snowpack melts in the winter and early spring — glows a bright and fiery orange.
However, the Firefall happens only under the right conditions. For starters, the sky needs to be clear. In addition, the sun needs to set at the right angle in the western sky; this creates the illusion that the waterfall is burning.