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Yosemite Horsetail Fall

Glow of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley, California
Glow of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley / E. Howe, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

Images of Yosemite Horsetail Fall create a sensation in social networks almost every year. For a few days in a year in February it shines in the light of the setting Sun and, it seems, it even emits an eerie light!

4.6 out of 10 stars 45.8%

GPS coordinates
37.7311 N 119.6275 W
Location, address
North America, United States, California, Yosemite National Park, northern side of Yosemite Valley, south-eastern wall of El Capitan
Total height
˜ 630 m
Highest drop
480 m
Some meters
Average annual flow
Flows only for a few weeks in year
UNESCO World Heritage status
Part of "Yosemite National Park", 1984, No. 308.

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Small but very tall

Horsetail Fall, California
Horsetail Fall / Anita Ritenour, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Yosemite Horsetail Fall is formed by a small stream which for the most part of the year is dry or just a meager trickle. But for a few weeks in the late winter – early spring it turns into a spectacular waterfall. If there is enough water, it even divides into two parallel streams. The western stream is a bit higher – its main drop is 480 m tall, while the eastern stream (a bit more powerful one) has a 470 m tall drop.

After the main drop both streams join and continue to fall down a steep terrain for another 150 m, thus bringing the total height of the waterfall to a whooping 620 – 630 m.

Such figures are very impressive even if waterfall flows only for a short time during the year. But… it is located in Yosemite Valley – one of the most beautiful places in the world with several world-class waterfalls (see Yosemite Falls) and the small Horsetail Fall is rather insignificant if compared to these giants.

Wonder of nature

Horsetail Falls illuminated by the Sun
Horsetail Falls illuminated by the Sun / Rachel Chang, / CC BY 2.0

Nonetheless for a few days in the year Yosemite Horsetail Fall becomes a world-class "star". Around the February 17 – 19 the setting Sun sends a beam of light exactly to this waterfall. As the Sun is setting down, the surroundings become dark but the waterfall for some 10 minutes shines like a stream of fire.

The unique properties of Horsetail Fall have not been mentioned until the recent times. The first known colored image of this phenomenon was taken in 1973 by Galen Rowell. Since then more and more people are coming to appreciate this wonder of nature. Not every year is lucky – sometimes there is almost no water, sometimes the sky is grey. But no one should complain – anyway they are in one of the most beautiful places in the world – Yosemite Valley.


  1. Yosemite Firefall – a website devoted to this site. Accessed on December 9, 2015.

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