Witness the Bizarre Natural Beauty of Yosemite’s Annual ‘Firefall’ Event

Even amid the awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite National Park, El Capitan stands out.

The natural rock formation is legendary among park visitors and mountain climbers from around the world. But, even frequent visitors have likely never witnessed its annual “Firefall” event.

Beginning in the second half of February each year, light from the setting sun strikes Horsetail Fall (a 1,570-foot waterfall that cascades down El Capitan’s eastern face in winter and early spring) at just the right angle. For the next week or two, the sunlight illuminates the upper portion of the waterfall causing it to glow a deep, vibrant crimson and orange. The result is a spectacular display of nature reminiscent of a “lava waterfall.”

The spectacle can be finicky. It requires conditions be just right or the Firefall won’t occur. First, the area’s winter snowpack must be sufficient and the air temperature warm enough in late February to melt the snow. This ensures proper water flow at Horsetail Fall (a condition that’s lacking in October when the angle of the sun is the same as in February, but the falls are dry).

The event also requires a clear view of the western sky at sunset. Clouds or fog can obstruct the light from the sunset and not properly illuminate the falls. This is especially tricky in the Sierra Nevada, as the weather varies wildly day to day, even hour to hour. The sky can be crystal clear in the morning and completely socked-in that same afternoon. Like the elusive green flash phenomenon, when it does occur, the event is short-lived. Even under ideal conditions, it only lasts for about ten minutes each day.

The Firefall was captured in 1973 by photographer Galen Rowell, who snapped its first-ever photograph. For decades, it occurred each year in relative obscurity. It wasn’t until recently — with the proliferation of blogs, Facebook, and the internet — that it began to garner worldwide attention. These days, massive crowds gather by the hundreds to witness and photograph the spectacle. The few hotels in the area routinely sell out months in advance, so be sure to book early.

Food & Drink

This Pulled Pork Walking Taco Recipe Is a Delicious Twist on Frito Pie

Portable pulled pork is the perfect picnic pickings.
Travel

You Can ‘Find Yourself’ on these Ultra-Luxurious, Wellness-Inspired Tours

It's so much easier to "find yourself" amid Egyptian cotton sheets and daily spa treatments.
Outdoor and Fitness

The Return of Dave Mackey: From Ultrarunner to Leg Amputee and Back

In 2016, ultrarunner Dave Mackey made the decision to amputate is left leg below the knee — but that hasn't stopped him.
Food & Drink

How to Make Pulled Pork in 3 Delicious Recipes

Don't swine about it — learn how to make pulled pork yourself.
Food & Drink

Heading to Hawaii? Make Your Reservations at Manta Restaurant to Eat Big Island Beef

How can cattle raised in Hawaii stand-up to beef carefully coddled for years in Japan, Australia, and the mainland U.S.? Pretty damn easily, that's how.
Living

Detroit’s Shinola Hotel Has Us Feeling Right At Home

With stylish guest suites and a social “living room,” the Shinola Hotel honors the Motor City’s past while looking to a bright future.
Travel

‘App in the Air’ Could Help Travelers Survive the Next Government Shutdown

It's like an airport survival kit in your pocket. It will be handy long after the government shutdown ends (again).
Travel

The Best Travel and Adventure Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

If you're reading this, you're staring at a screen. Wouldn't you rather be exploring a different part of the world than the Internet?
Outdoors

4 of the Most Dangerous Hikes in the World

You'll need a healthy dose of fear and a desire to push your self to the edge — just not over it.
Travel

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.
Travel

Celebrate Your Single-ness This Valentine’s Day with a Cheap Vacation

Contiki is looking to make solo celebrations even better with deeply discounted travel packages for Singles Awareness Day.
Travel

Win a Private Island Getaway for You and 7 of Your Closest Friends

Bring the entire squad on an ultra-luxe Belizean getaway worthy of a one-percenter.
Travel

10 Reasons to Visit Norway in 2019

The picturesque ruggedness of Norway is just part of the appeal of what may arguably be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.
Living

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.