Planning a visit to see the Yosemite Firefall? Here are new visitor rules to know

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/ezamora@fresnobee.com

An annual must-see at Yosemite National Park, the winter Firefall at Horsetail Fall , is becoming so popular it’s forcing officials to require reservations in 2023.

If conditions are right, with enough water and clear skies, the seasonal waterfall at the event appears as a streak of fire pouring over the eastern edge of El Capitan into Yosemite Valley.

But park officials say a surge in visitation in recent years coinciding with the Firefall season is leading to traffic congestion, full parking lots, pedestrian-vehicle conflicts and a danger to the park’s natural resources.

So reservations to visit will be required during the weekends of Feb. 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26. Reservations will go on sale at recreation.gov on Jan. 13 at 8 a.m. PST. Each reservation will be valid for seven days. Visitors who first arrive Mondays through Thursday will not need a reservation. The $35 car entrance fee is valid for seven days, regardless of day of arrival.

Visitors who have a lodging reservation for Yosemite Valley, Wawona, Foresta or Yosemite West will not need an additional reservation, park officials say. That also goes for those who already have campground reservations.

The February reservation-required dates are a tweak to last month’s National Park Service announcement that it is suspending its Yosemite reservation requirements in 2023.

The National Park Service announced the change Nov. 15 on social media, noting that Yosemite needed to have those requirements in place in 2020 and 2021 to help deal with the pandemic and then in 2022 when several attractions were closed for repairs.

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