Horsetail Falls 2016 Update

Horsetail Falls, 2016 Update

It’s now the middle of February and we’re starting to see photos of the Horsetail Falls Fire Falls event stampeed onto social media. The wet winter we’ve had in California has meant that Horsetail Falls is flowing in a way that it hasn’t in ~5 years. Here’s an update on how I see things progressing for the next week.

There are going to be amazing opportunities to photograph the falls. Everything is looking great!

There are a number of photos already being posted online with some beautiful shots of Horsetail. Lets reminder ourselves what dates are good:

Horsetail Falls Sunset 2016 Prediction
Horsetail Falls Sunset 2016 Prediction

On February 12th, Horsetail lit up for 3 minutes. By February 22nd, it will light up for 12 minutes, a much longer window. That number will shrink down to 5 minutes by February 27th. While you can certainly go and shoot it now, your window of opportunity increases by Sunday/Monday, and then shrinks again.

Weather Outlook

As you can see from Nam Ing’s photo on Flickr, there’s plenty of snow on top of El Capitan. That snow will continue to feed Horsetail Falls. Additionally, a big storm is coming in today, February 17th, and will dump between 11″ – 18″ on top of El Capitan. El Capitan sits at ~7,500 feet elevation, and snow levels are expected to be in the 7,000ft – 7,300ft elevation.

The additional 1-1.5ft of snow will make for a great flow in the falls … especially since the weather warms up over the weekend.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all have clear skies. There is a chance of partly cloudy skies on Friday, so you’ll want to monitor the clouds on Friday if you plan on going.

Snow Forecast for Badger Pass, from
Expected weather at Badger Pass, from Open Snow

Also notice how the weather warms up on Sunday and Monday, into the mid to upper 50’s; this is great for the flow of Horsetail as it means all that snow from Wednesday/Thursday will start to melt a bit quicker and increase Horsetail.

Sunday and Monday should be great times to see and photograph Horsetail Falls.

Other Considerations

I expect traffic to absolutely insane in Yosemite on Sunday. Crowds have already been large and Sunday should be no exception. Plan on arriving early to both find parking and grab your spot. I recommend bringing a chair and some food, and maybe a good book to keep you company.

For other tips on how to shoot the falls, see my blog post:

Aaron M Written by:

Aaron Meyers is a landscape and wedding photographer living in Silicon Valley, CA. His love of the outdoors makes for frequent forays into the Californian wilds, where he delights in the stunning vistas of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, and the Pacific Coast.