Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite NP, CA, USA. Look for new Horsetail Fall Permit System

Horsetail Fall at sunset, Yosemite. I had this view to myself When I made this image near Northside Drive back in 1995. How things have changed!

Yesterday the National Park Service issues a press release announcing a new permit system for viewing Horsetail Fall. Here are the essentials:

– From February 12th through 26th there will be a special “event zone” between Yosemite Valley Lodge and the El Capitan crossover.

– During that time Southside Drive will be open to two-way traffic, with no parking allowed between the El Cap crossover and Sentinel Bridge.

– Northside Drive will be open only to cars with parking permits. The right-hand lane of Northside Drive will be converted to parking for 300 vehicles with permits. 250 free parking reservations for each day can be obtained online starting tomorrow, February 3rd, at 9:00 a.m. PST, through EventBrite. 50 first-come, first-served permits will be available each day at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Those who obtain a permit online will need to bring a printed copy of their reservation confirmation to The Ansel Adams Gallery on the day of their reservation to obtain a parking pass.

– Without a parking permit for Northside Drive, the only access to the “event zone” will be by foot from Yosemite Valley Lodge or El Cap Meadow, or by paying a fee to take a naturalist-guided tour with the main park concessioner, Yosemite Hospitality.

You can read the full press release here.

When I first read this I wondered why they’re only allowing parking on Northside Drive, since the Southside Drive viewing area is almost as popular. In thinking about it, my guess is that the park service believes the Southside Drive area is more sensitive, since it’s near the river, so this is their way of discouraging people from going there. But it would be nice if they spelled this out.

And this is supposed to be a pilot program, but with little water in Horsetail Fall, I wonder if the park service will really learn anything this year, since there will probably will be fewer people than usual.

One side effect of this “event zone” is that parking along Southside Drive between the El Cap crossover and Sentinel Bridge will probably be closed off 24 hours a day between February 12th and 26th. So that means you’ll have to walk to Cathedral Beach, Sentinel Bridge, and the Four-Mile trailhead, even in the morning, and even if you have no plans to photograph Horsetail Fall. I haven’t been able to confirm this 24-hour closure, but it seems likely, since it would be difficult to close the parking areas off each day and then reopen them after sunset.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out!

— Michael Frye

Related Posts: Horsetail Fall Conditions; A Surreal Sunset

Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.