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Trip Details

Date Wednesday  2/19/2020
End Date Tuesday  2/25/2020
Group Denver
Event Title Yosemite Firefall Backpacking Trip
Start Time 11:59 AM
Status Approved
Leader David Brush
Member Price Free
Non-member Price Free
Available Participants 7
Type Trip
Trip Type Snowshoe
Classification Difficult 
Trail Mileage 0
Elevation Gain
Driving Distance


Every February, something magical happens in Yosemite:  the setting sun strikes Horsetail Fall and lights it up like molten lava flowing down the face of El Capitan (see, for example,  Or it doesn't happen.  You see, three natural conditions must be met in order for the Yosemite Firefall to appear, and Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate:

  • First, the setting sun has to be in the right position in relation to El Capitan.  We can calculate when this will occur, and know for certain the dates when it will be in this position.  This year the optimal viewing dates are 2/19-2/24, with 2/22 being the "best" date.
  • Second, the western sky must be clear in order for the setting sun to strike Horsetail Fall.  We can predict or forecast when the skies will be clear, but we can't calculate it with certainty.
  • And third, there has to be enough water flowing down Horsetail Fall for the sun to illuminate.  This is a function of not only rainfall and snowfall, but also temperatures that are high enough to promote snowmelt and not cold enough to freeze any water that would otherwise be flowing down Horsetail Fall.

Will the magic of the Yosemite Firefall happen this year?  If it does, will you be there to see it?  If you're lucky enough for the answer to both of those questions to be yes, the next question is, where will you see it from, a traditional viewing location down in Yosemite Valley, or a location high above the valley floor from where few people have ever seen--and will ever see--the Yosemite Firefall?  Join me for my Yosemite Firefall Backpacking Trip and you'll have the opportunity to see it from both vantage points.  If it happens at all...

For more info Contact

Trip Leader contact information:

  • Name:  David Brush
  • Mobile:  847-204-7246
  • Email:

If you need to cancel your reservation for this trip, it is your responsibility to do that online.  Here's how:  Log in to > Members > My Membership > My Trips > find this trip (your upcoming trips will be listed in date order) > click "Cancel Reservation."  If you need to cancel within 24 hours of the scheduled meeting time, please do so online and call or text me at 847-204-7246 (no emails, please).  Remember to include your first and last name in any text messages you send.


Here's the itinerary:

WEDNESDAY, 2/19/20 - We will meet at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at or around noon on Wednesday, 2/19/20.  After picking up rental vehicles (4WD or AWD SUVs), we will drive approximately 200 miles to our reserved accomodations in El Portal, which is near the west entrance to Yosemite National Park.  We will stop along the way to purchase tire chains and fuel for our stoves.  We should arrive in El Portal in time for dinner.

THURSDAY, 2/20/20 - In the morning we will drive up Glacer Point Road to pick up our wilderness permit at the Badger Pass Ranger Station.  We'll do some sightseeing in the early afternoon, then attempt to see the firefall from one of the traditional viewing locations in Yosemite Valley.

FRIDAY, 2/21/20 - In the morning we will check out of our motel and drive up Glacier Point Road to the overnight parking area of the Badger Pass Ski Area.  From there we will backpack to Taft Point via Glacier Point Road, the McGurk Meadow Trail, and the Pohono Trail (6.73 miles; 1,346 feet of elevation gain).  We will set up camp before reaching Taft Point, then continue on to Taft Point for our second attempt to see the firefall, this time from a perspective that few people have ever seen.

SATURDAY, 2/22/20 - In the morning we will break camp and hike to the summit of Sentinel Dome via the Pohono Trail, then continue on to Glacier Point, where we'll set up camp and watch the sun set on Half Dome (3.82 miles; 1,215 feet of elevation gain).

SUNDAY, 2/23/20 - After watching the sun rise on Half Dome and breaking camp, we'll hike back to camp at Taft Point and make our third and final attempt to see the firefall (3.62 miles; 1,205 feet of elevation gain).  [I apologize for going from Taft Point to Glacier Point and then back to Taft Point, but I want us to see the sun set and rise on Half Dome.  The only way to do that without splitting up our two nights at Taft Point would require hiking 10+ miles between the Badger Pass Ski Area and Glacier Point the day before or after our stay at Taft Point, so...]

MONDAY, 2/24/20 - In the morning we will break camp and hike back to our cars at the Badger Pass Ski Area via the Pohono Trail, the McGurk Meadow Trail, and Glacier Point Road (6.73 miles; 1,099 feet of elevation gain).  After loading up the SUVs (and perhaps grabbing some hot chocolate and something to eat at the ski lodge), we'll drive back to San Francisco and stay at a hotel near SFO.

TUESDAY, 2/25/20 - Flights home!


REGISTRATION - If you are interested in registering for this hike, please send an email to me at with your CMC Member ID number and a brief statement of your winter backpacking experience.  I will consider accepting 1-2 applicants with limited winter backpacking experience, provided that the overall level of experience within the group is sufficient to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for everyone.

SHARED EXPENSES - In addtion to your individual expenses such as airfare, you will also share in the cost of group expenses such as:

  • Rental vehicles (two 4WD or AWD SUVs), insurance, gas, tolls, etc.
  • Tire chains (each vehicle will require two pairs, which we will return if not used)
  • Fuel for our winter backpacking stoves (you must bring an empty fuel bottle per the gear list)
  • Shared lodging (I have reserved four rooms with two queen beds in El Portal for check-in on Wednesday, 2/19/20, and check-out on Friday, 2/21/20.  I will also reserve rooms near San Francisco International Airport for check-in on Monday, 2/24/20, and check-out on Tuesday, 2/25/20, the day of our flights home.)
  • Park entry fee (I will bring a National Parks Pass that will allow us to bring one vehicle into the park.  A $35 entrance fee will be shared by the other members of the group unless someone brings a pass for the second vehicle.)

GEAR - I will provide a list of required, recommended and optional gear for this trip to those applicants who appear to have the necessary qualifications to successfully complete it.

WEATHER - Do not assume that bad weather means the trip will be canceled.  I will generally only cancel a trip if the roads will be unsafe for us to travel on to and from the trailhead.  Otherwise, we will wear and carry the appropriate gear for the anticipated and potential weather conditions.

UPDATES - Please check your email and text messages each day beginning Wednesday, 2/12/20, for any announcements from me, including a current weather forecast with suggestions for additional equipment you may need or want to bring.

MEDICAL CONDITIONS - Please let me know before the day of the hike if you have a medical condition that might impact you on the trip (e.g., allergies, asthma, cardiac or respiratory issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.).  If you have such a condition, remember to bring the necessary medication and medical equipment (e.g., EpiPen, asthma inhaler, heart medications, blood glucose meter, etc.) and inform me of its location in your pack.  Also, if you are taking a prescription blood thinner, bring ClotStop or a similar product and notify me of its location in your pack.

GUESTS - Non-CMC members are welcome to register for this hike if accompanied by a CMC member and the guest signs a Guest Liability Waiver form.  Please contact me if you wish to bring a guest or if you would like to join the hike as my guest.