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Catastrophic Yosemite Rockfall Forces Park to Close Roads and Trails

Several tons of rock cut loose from a mountainside and crashed near Northside Drive in Yosemite National Park this Monday. No one was hurt, but the rockslide forced the National Park Service to close a number of roads and trailheads.

The timing couldn’t be worse: The rockfall originated near the Horsetail Falls area of El Capitan, and trails to the falls have since been closed. There are just a few days left of February, which means visitors hoping to see or photograph the Yosemite’s legendary Yosemite’s legendary “firefall” phenomenon this week may have to wait until next year. 

El Capitan, the park’s signature 3,000-foot monolith sheds rock regularly as part of its natural weathering process, this is one of the more destructive rockfalls the park has seen in recent years. It’s also the first significant rockfall event of 2023. 

The firefall—an optical illusion that occurs when Horsetail Falls becomes backlit by the rising sun—only occurs in February when the conditions are just right. This year, hundreds of photographers and hikers flocked to Yosemite Valley to see it. There was so much demand that the park was forced to launch a reservation system for park entry during February weekends. While there may be a chance for another firefall viewing before the end of the month, the rockfall may have to close the window early for many visitors. 

The National Park Service is currently monitoring the situation and will be posting updates regularly on the park website and Yosemite Facebook page.

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