Yosemite Requiring Permits for February's Horsetail 'Firefall' Event

Yosemite Requiring Permits for February's Horsetail 'Firefall' Event

One of the most spectacular natural phenomenons to photograph, this year’s Horsetail Fall “firefall” event at Yosemite National Park is host of a new pilot program that will require one of a limited number of permits in order to access closed roads leading to the best vantage points.

The National Park Service said that the reason for the pilot program is to “reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for pedestrians and motorists.” In the previous couple of years, they state that over 1,000 automobiles traveled Northside Drive in western Yosemite Valley during the natural phenomenon event.

This year, Yosemite’s firefall event is officially taking place in the park February 12–26. Yosemite is taking 250 permit reservations for each day of the event and can be booked online. Reservations for the parking permits went live today, and as of this writing, four of the event days have been completely booked so far. On each day during the firefall event, 50 permits will be available on-location at the park in the Ansel Adams Gallery on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9 a.m.

[Update 2/6/18: All parking reservations have been taken. The 50 day-of permits are the last chance option at this time.]

Photo by Dzung Tran.

The natural firefall effect occurs from mid to late February every year during sunset, weather permitting. Factors that come into play include having enough water flow coming off the waterfall for the orange glow, atmospheric haze, and cloud cover. There’s no guarantee of coming home with an outstanding firefall image even if you manage your way to one of the viewing areas at the right time.

For more information, visit the Horsetail Fall page on the Yosemite website.

Lead image by Jay Huang.

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22 Comments

David T's picture

Good. But people need to get away from first come first serve, as it will lead to sniping/botting. Either choose manually based on merit or previous pulication or collect over a few hours/days and then do a lottery.

Merit or previous publication?

David T's picture

Like with applying for concerts or other events they check your reach/demographic and if you have preciously reported or announced the event. Basically a give and take. Not sure what the better word is.

Concerts are private events which can set all the rules they please with regard to who can and can not photograph. This, however, is a tax payer funded national park. Not everyone who wishes to see the event is looking to sell photos to National Geographic, some simply want to enjoy the spectacle with their children. Limiting access based on "credentials", as you propose, is in complete violation of equal treatment under the law.

David T's picture

Then still, a lottery is better than first come first serve.

The main problem I see with regard to a "lottery" style permit process with regards to the non-photographers who wish to attend(and they have just as much right to be there as the photographers), is that people tend to plan large vacations/trips months in advance. Someone could have been planning a "Yosemite" trip for 12 or even 18 months, booking hotels, flights and rental cars only to find out 2 weeks before the trip that their entire itinerary is screwed up because they didn't win the "lottery" at the last minute.

On the flip side, a photographer could apply for the lottery(and any others held in that fashion) and then pick and choose which of those he "won" to attend. Again, usually not an option for a family vacation. No biggie for the photographer, kind of a big deal for the dad planning a once in a lifetime cross country family vacation.

David T's picture

And how does first come first serve help? As you can see in the article the permits are already gone for some days. The Event is in a few weeks.

If someone planned this 12 month ago he has less chances to get a permit, because he is stuck at work when tickets went live or whatever.

Tbh I dont know if the permits were actually sniped (i know it happens because I do it too) or people got them legit - but collecting applications over, say, 24 hours would be better and more fair.

Of the 15 days that they are issuing permits, currently, there are still permits available for 9. This isn't exactly Ticketmasters kind of gig.

"If someone planned this 12 month ago he has less chances to get a permit"
Still a far greater chance than a "roll of the dice" lottery system. With the permit sales starting on a weekend, and only 1/3 sold out as I mentioned above, getting a permit shouldn't be very difficult.

Going forward in to next year people will have ample time to plan and obtain permits. That is what I was referring to earlier. If one were to start planning next years vacation NOW, they would be able to keep abreast of the permit process and set their itinerary accordingly. With a lottery system, well, it's a roll of the dice.

Matthew Saville's picture

I think half lottery, and half FCFS, would be the best way to go. They have, what, 200 tickets? Release 50-100 of them a few months in advance for FCFS. Then do a lottery ~1 month before for another 50-100 tickets. Then do walk-in FCFS for the leftover tickets each prior day, in-person.

Problem solved.

michael andrew's picture

why are you like this

Spy Black's picture

..except it's not "our" country, it's a country we stole by mass slaughtering the natives this country actually belonged to. So I say the permits should be given to whoever asks for it first...

Spy Black's picture

I appreciate the entertainment value of your comments.

Miha S's picture

No wall, no country.

Horsetail Falls is completely dry, so if we don’t get a new storm soon, there will be no Horsetail firefall. We were just there yesterday.

Emil Stanev's picture

Capitalism at it's finest....am I the only one who thinks this is wrong?

The permits are FREE. It's just to reduce traffic in the area.

Matthew Saville's picture

Social media armchair-ing at it's finest....jumping to conclusions and pointing fingers based on a headline plus a load of assumption.

Jen Photographs's picture

I wonder if this could be better solved by having shuttle buses for a small fee, say $5 per head, and disallowing cars up that road during the peak season?

michael buehrle's picture

that would make too much sense.

Jen Photographs's picture

I mulled on it some and can think of a potential hurdle: liability insurance in face of govt budget cuts. A lot of people bring tripods and bulky photography gear. It probably would be a pita to figure out how to transport that and not wallop other people.

While I understand the reason for this, this is WAY too late in the game! I made travel arrangements 6mo ago! And less than two weeks before my travels they change (some of) the rules? And no, you can't carry multiple bodies and lenses, a chair some hot food & beverages etc for mi from the other parking areas that easily without re-packing. Don't get me wrong I'm not against the idea, but I am against the last minute rush to 'test' this out. Time to re-plan...