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Firefall: Five Things to Know about Horsetail Fall in Yosemite

Firefall at Yosemite National Park

What is it?

Horsetail Fall is a small waterfall flowing off the eastern side of El Capitan.  Most people don’t notice it, but when there is a perfect alignment of water and sky and sun, for a few minutes each year it lights up like a cascade of fire reminiscent of the days when hot coals were tossed from Glacier Point.  A cliffside glowing blood red and burnt orange is an unforgettable site!

Dates for 2020

The projected best dates for the next event are between February 19 – 22.  Firefall only lasts for about 10 to 15 minutes and begins about 15 to 5 minutes before sunset, which will occur at 5:40-5:45pm.

Conditions must be just right

First, the fall must be flowing.  The spectacle is dependent upon the snowpack and warm enough temperatures to melt the snow – if there is no snowmelt there is no fall.  If the temps are too cold, the snow doesn’t melt, the fall doesn’t flow.

Second, the sky must be clear.  Even the tiniest bit of cloud cover can block the sun’s rays and the fall won’t light up.  Luckily, you’ll have a couple of days to try for just the right conditions.

Get there early!

The rising popularity of Firefall has caused quite a bit of traffic congestion in the Park for this event.  Get there early to claim your spot and be prepared to walk at least a mile from where you park to the best viewing areas.  The closest parking will be in the Yosemite Falls Parking Area near Yosemite Lodge.  There will be traffic controls in place as lanes will be closed for driving and made available for pedestrian use.  Remember to bring warm clothes, boots, and a headlamp or flashlight.  Snacks are also advisable.


The first known photograph of the natural Yosemite Firefall, taken by photographer Galen Rowell, was in 1973.  Digital photography and social media have since shot the once-a-year Firefall into super-stardom status attracting hundreds of photographers and spectators.

Prior to Rowell’s famous photos, there was no mention of the unusual event.  The Native Awahneechee Indians, who lived in the Valley for centuries and would have known of it, appeared to have kept it a secret from the white explorers and settlers.  Even John Muir, who surveyed the area extensively, did not mention the phenomenon at Horsetail Fall.

Make your reservations early

You’ll want to reserve a room at the Groveland Hotel to take advantage of the few evenings that Firefall may be on display.  End your day in the cozy comfort of a room at the historic hotel, with a nosh and bourbon to perfectly top off your day!

Send us your Firefall photo: The winning shot will be featured in our Email Newsletter and the photographer will receive two vouchers for a Mix-it-Up Bourbon Flight in Provisions Taproom.

The Groveland 18767 Main Street circle logo

Summer Menu

Small Bites & Shares

Southwest Chicken Spring Rolls with Pico de Gallo $12

Vegetable Samosas with cilantro chutney $12

Heirloom Tomato Flatbreads with grape tomato, mozzarella, pecorino, pesto, balsamic reduction $14

Grilled Chicken Wings with teriyaki, pineapple pepper relish, scallions, peanuts $14

Truffle and Parmesan French Fries with garlic aioli $11

Charcuterie and Cheese Plate with mostarda, crackers, whole grain mustard $16



Fiesta Salad with romaine, Pico de Gallo, black beans, avocado, pepper jack cheese, chipotle ranch $13

House Caesar Salad with parmesan crisps, garlicky croutons, lemon Caesar dressing $12

Artisan Salad with apple, celery, dried apricots, cucumber, pumpkin seed vinaigrette $12

*Add Shrimp +$14, Chicken +$10, Steak +$14, or Salmon +$12



Vegetarian Orecchiette Pasta $24

with Spring vegetables, tomato coulis, pecorino Romano

Fried Chicken Sliders $22

with brioche bun, sweet pickles, coleslaw, chipotle mayo and house fries

Wagyu Burger Sliders $24

with aged cheddar, brioche bun, mustard aioli, romaine lettuce and house fries

Blackened Chicken Tacos $24

with flour tortilla, jack cheese, black bean aioli, mango salsa and tortilla chips

Pan Roasted Salmon $32 

with cous-cous tabouleh, seasonal vegetable, citrus vinaigrette

Jumbo Shrimp and Potato Gnocchi $34 

with English peas, mushrooms, heirloom tomato, lemon butter sauce

Grilled Steak Frittes $42

with Prime NY strip, house fries, chimi churi sauce



Room 110 is situated at the back of the hotel in the Annex building on the lower floor.  This cozy room features a queen bed, with a large private bathroom containing a tub/shower.  This room accommodates two guests. This is a pet-friendly room.

Accessibility Features: Entry door is 32” wide; there is an outlet within 4’ of the telephone jack; the door lock is located 44” from the floor; there is more than 36” of room to the right side of the bed; hangers are located 53” off the ground.  Currently, the door handle is a historic twist knob, but we are working with our locksmith to replace this with a levered handle that can easily be operated with one hand and without tight grasping, pinching or twisting the wrist.

The bathroom has room to do a t-turn; the toilet seat is 18” off the ground and has a grab bar located behind the toilet; the wash basin is 30” off the ground with insulated pipes; the wash basin faucet is easy to operate with one hand without tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist; the towel racks are 46” off the floor; the bathroom floors are slip resistant.  There are no grab bars on an adjacent wall in the bathroom for the toilet as there is not an adjacent wall to place them on. 

The tub has faucet controls positioned at the center of the end wall and open side of the tub; faucet can easily be turned on and off with one hand without tight grasping, pinching or twisting the wrist; there is a grab bar at the foot of the tub and at the head of the tub; and there are two 40” grab bars alongside the tub to serve for low and high needs.  The fixtures in the bathtub are historic and therefore we do not have a 60” hand held shower wand.

Due to the historic nature of our property, our rooms are fairly small, therefore we are unable to provide 36” around both sides and the foot of the bed.  However, we do provide full clearance between the door and the right side of the bed.

You can book this room online or please call us 24 hours/7 days a week at 209-962-4000 or email us at guestservices@groveland.com and we would be happy to find the room that most meets your needs.  

Pet Friendly

Your search for pet-friendly vacation lodging near Yosemite National Park ends here.  Our four-legged guests love the Groveland Hotel as much as our two-legged ones!  We’re happy to offer select pet-friendly rooms, located on the first floor, for your stay in Groveland, California.  The pet fee is $75 per reservation, with a limit of one pet per guest.  We welcome pets 60 lbs or less.

For dog-friendly activities near the Groveland Hotel, we recommend a walk along the Hetch Hetchy Railroad or going for a refreshing dip in the pet-friendly Rainbow Pools swimming hole.  If you are heading into Yosemite National Park, check their website for pet rules and restrictions.

Looking for a local dog sitter/boarder where you can keep your dogs for the day while exploring Yosemite?  There is a great nearby facility called Big Creek Boarding.