The Yosemite Firefall - Then and Now
For many years, Yosemite National Park was home to a unique nightly event during the summer months: a bonfire set at the top of Glacier Point would be pushed over the edge of the cliff, creating a "firefall" in the evening hours when the park's famed waterfalls were shrouded in darkness. This event became known as the Yosemite Firefall.
By the early 1900s, the Yosemite Firefall was a beloved tradition in the park; it was such a popular event that it featured in both the book and movie versions of "The Caine Mutiny." Check out this linked video to see old footage of the Yosemite Firefall.
In part because of its popularity, the nightly Yosemite Firefall caused numerous problems in the park. Not only was it unnatural and potentially damaging to park features and plants, but the growing crowds watching the nightly Firefall trampled park meadows as they clamored to view the event. In the late 1960s, the park ended the Firefall tradition as it had existed.
However, it turns out this was not the end of the Yosemite Firefall.
Just a few years after the original Yosemite Firefall ended, a photographer discovered that for two weeks every February, given the right conditions, sunlight hits Horsetail Falls in a way that makes it appear to be on fire. In the years since, winter trips to see the Yosemite Firefall have exploded in popularity. In fact, it has become so popular, the park now limits access to the park during the weekends when the natural Yosemite Firefall is most likely to occur.
If you're interested in reserving a spot to see the new Yosemite Firefall, the Yosemite Conservancy has more information on how to secure a permit to see this unique and once-again-beloved Yosemite tradition.
If you're interested in learning more about the great traditions of Yosemite National Park, check out our book, 101 Travel Bits: Yosemite National Park.