Yosemite Firefall 2021 Dates, Reservations—How to See Spectacular Natural Phenomenon

Guests can now reserve a ticket to enter California's Yosemite National Park for this month's firefall event at Horsetail Fall, a natural phenomenon which sees the waterfall appear to have a fire-like glow due to a backdrop of sunlight.

The National Park Service (NPS) website explains: "This small waterfall usually flows only during winter and is easy to miss. On rare occasions during mid- to late February, it can glow orange when it's backlit by sunset."

While "no permit or reservation is required to view Horsetail Fall," the NPS website advises, visitors will need to book a reservation to enter Yosemite National Park from February 8 to 28.

Recreation.gov, the website where reservations can be booked, advises: "Yosemite National Park is working closely with federal, state, and local public health authorities, as well as the four surrounding counties (Mariposa, Tuolumne, Madera, and Mono), to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The health and safety of park visitors, employees, and partners continues to be our number one priority. The reservation system will be in effect until local public health conditions improve," the website adds.

Here we outline how to book a visit to Yosemite National Park for this year's firefall event.

When to visit

The firefall event occurs sometime from mid to late February. The NPS website advises: "This unique lighting effect happens only on evenings with a clear sky when the waterfall is flowing...even some haze or minor cloudiness can greatly diminish or eliminate the effect," it adds.

According to photographer Aaron Meyers, who has shot the event several times and annually predicts the best viewing times, February 21 is likely to be the best date this year, with the firefall expected to take place from around 5:28 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. local time that evening.

Booking reservations

Those planning to visit Yosemite National Park by car or motorcycle must book a "day use reservation" at Recreation.gov. Day use reservations are available now for visits between February 8 to 28.

"Day use visitors who arrive by private vehicle or motorcycle must have a day use reservation. Day-use reservations are valid for seven consecutive days and must be validated on the first day that your reservation is scheduled to begin. Visitors arriving on foot or bicycle do not require a day use reservation," the website advises.

Reservations cannot be booked at the park and must be made at Recreation.gov or via the Recreation.gov mobile app. Reservations are valid for seven consecutive days and must be validated on the first day that your reservation is scheduled to begin. Guests can book up to one private vehicle or motorcycle day use reservation per day.

A new batch of day use reservations will be available daily for booking two days in advance of arrival, "for example on February 5th at 8 a.m. PST reservations can be reserved for February 7th, or February 6th at 8 a.m. PST reservations can be made of February 8th," the website notes.


The 7-day vehicle entry fee is $33, while the 7-day motorcycle entry fee is $28. Both vehicle and motorcycle day use visitors will need to pay a $2 reservation fee. The Recreation.gov website does not accept payment from foreign bank accounts or travelers' checks.

For park pass holders: "Your annual or lifetime pass is accepted as your entrance fee. Current pass holders and those who plan on purchasing a pass upon arrival at Yosemite will be required to pay the $2.00 reservation fee. If you plan on purchasing your annual or lifetime pass upon arrival, you must come prepared with a credit card," the website advises.

Once their ticket type is selected online, pass holders will be prompted to apply their pass information in the order details section when proceeding through checkout.

"If you have ordered a pass online and it has not arrived, but the pass will arrive by the time you visit Yosemite National Park, you will have an option to apply that pass to your order. If you plan on purchasing your pass when you arrive at Yosemite, you will have an option to apply that pass to your order. You will be charged for your pass upon your arrival," according to the website.

"For visitors with overnight accommodations inside Yosemite National Park, including The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and Upper Pines Campground, day-use reservations are included with overnight lodging reservations," the website notes.

Cancellations for reservations must be made up to 24 hours in advance of your first day of arrival in order to secure a refund (minus the $2 reservation fee). No refunds will be given for cancellations made after the 24-hour window or to those who don't show up for their reserved arrival date.

Entering the park

Day use hours are from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. local time. All visitors with day use reservations must leave the park by 11 p.m. local time, the website advises.

The reservation holder must be in the vehicle or on the motorcycle at the time of entry and must show photo identification. Visitors must have a printed or digital copy of their day use reservation available to be scanned at the park entrance station upon arrival.

"Pass holders must provide Annual or Lifetime Pass (if applicable) for validation or will be required to pay the entrance fee," the website advises.

See Recreation.gov for full details on booking a visit to Yosemite National Park.

Firefall Horsetail Fall Yosemite Park 2013
The firefall event about to take place at Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park, California, pictured in 2013. Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images