For a few weeks in February, if the water is flowing in Horsetail Fall, photographers and park visitors gather in the waning evening light for an amazing natural display. The Horsetail Fall phenomenon appears when the angle of the setting sun sets the waterfall ablaze with reds and oranges, like a fire was falling down the cliffs on the shoulder of El Capitan.
The most convenient, and frequently shot view of Horsetail Fall is at the El Capitan picnic area, approximately 1.7 miles past Yosemite Lodge at the Falls on Northside Drive. In late February, you’ll often see rows of photographers of all levels there catching the last rays of light in the evening.
Of course, the most unique images often come from photographers willing to explore for different angles and locations that also capture the light of the Fall. According to local professional photographer, Nancy Robbins, there are many places that work. Just look for places where the falls will be backlit by the setting sun, such as along the river, or along the rim.
The phenomenon is typically the most stunning during middle to late February. However, the effect depends on conditions for the year, and photographers may be luckier before or after that time frame depending on the amount of water flow in Horsetail Fall, and the cloud cover.