Parking permit now required to park on Northside for ‘firefall’ event at Yosemite

Update on February 8: A previous version of this article misrepresented what the required permits were for. Reservations and their respective permits are not required to photograph the event. Instead, the permits are specifically for parking in a single location in Yosemite. Also, although the reservations are still being taken, representatives have informed us that due to limited precipitation, it’s unlikely there will be anything to photograph. 

Every February, thousands of photographers crowd the paths of Yosemite National Park to capture Horsetail Fall during the event known as the natural firefall. This year, in an effort to decrease traffic and increase safety concerns, Yosemite officials have decided to require free permits in a few of the car-park locations at Northside. You will still be able to walk wherever you would like to capture the event, and other parking locations are still fair game, but if you planned on parking on Northside, you’ll need to get your reservation in place.

If you’re not familiar with the natural firefall, it’s a phenomenon where the sun is at a perfect spot in the sky to light up the water dropping off the cliff of Horsetail Fall, making it appear as though the water is on fire.

The attraction, which happens just once a year during a two-week period in February, is wonderful to look at and photograph, but park officials say the spectacle is causing problems in the form of safety and traffic issues. As such, they’re making an effort to curb concerns by requiring free parking passes for the viewing areas on Northside.

Working alongside the Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite Conservancy, and Yosemite Hospitality, Yosemite National Park officials are setting up a reservation schedule to view and capture the event.

Visitors hoping to park at the Northside location will be able to make an online reservation for free through Eventbrite. Roughly 250 parking reservations will be available each day, with at least 50 additional permits being available on a first come, first serve basis at the Ansel Adams Gallery inside Yosemite National Park.

The Eventbrite page notes that a reservation is not the same as the permit. Once your reservation is made, your permit will be available for pickup at the Ansel Adams Gallery.

To make your reservation, you will need information about your vehicle, including your license plate number and the make, model, and color of your vehicle.

This year, the spectacle will occur daily between February 12 and 26. Every day except February 13 already is booked, so unless you get in on that day or manage to get one of the 50 additional passes, you’re out of luck for 2018. If that’s the case, just mark down the event in your calendar for next year.

That said, National Park Service Centennial Ambassador Les Marsden, informed Digital Trends that, in all probability, there will be no firefall phenomena this year. In an email, he said “Horsetail Fall is currently NOT running and there’s no snow atop El Capitan’s roughly one square mile summit, the sole source of Horsetail’s flow.  We’ve had nearly no snow this winter – and there’s no forecast of precipitation in the next week or two. Put bluntly: there won’t be anything to photograph this year.”