Horsetail Falls On El Capitan In Yosemite

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Horsetail Falls on the eastern side El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is a ephemeral waterfall (meaning it is seasonal). It flows only during the peak of a spring runoff. The spring runoff is early February to early March. It is usually at its peak during the second and third week in the month of February each year.

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This is one of the Yosemite waterfalls that attracts many photographers at sunset.

During day light hours this is a beautiful Yosemite waterfall. But if it is not cloudy and the sun is going down, this waterfall glows like fire.

You only have two minutes at sunset to photograph this waterfall looking like molten lava.

What happens is that the rays of the sunset reflect off of granite mountain behind the waterfall and make it appear to be a waterfall on fire.

Ordinary waterfall all day long...

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Photo by Pavel @

But at sunset...its looks like fire:)

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Photo by Pavel @

Depending on the sunset, the waterfall will take on the colors of reds, yellows, gold or orange. The more water is flowing, the better the effect that Horsetail Falls looks like fire. Sometimes it is even referred to as a natural firefall.

Learn About Yosemite's Firefall

The El Capitan picnic area is good place to view and photograph this waterfall. The waterfall is on the east side of El Capitan. But be forewarned that the area is crowded the second and third week of February. The spectacular look of this waterfall brings out many professional photographers.

There is a short window to photograph Horsetail Falls looking like a waterfall of fire...

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Ansel Adams called this the El Capitan Fall. A seasonal waterfall that spills off of the top of El Capitan. There has to be a good amount of snow in December and January for this waterfall to occur. If there is a dry winter, there is no waterfall.

El Capitan is so large that on a good year, there is a waterfall on the west side as well as the east side. When the water falls on the east side, it creates a waterfall that is 1,540 feet tall. When the water falls on the west side (this one, Horsetail), it creates a fall that is 1,570 feet high. Making this the tallest waterfall in all of Yosemite National Park when it is flowing.

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