'Firefall' optical illusion lights up Yosemite National Park

The 'firefall' illuminates Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Story highlights

  • This yearly occurrence happens for a couple of weeks each February
  • The brightness of the colors depends on the flow of water

(CNN)It's the time of year for the mesmerizing phenomenon "firefall" to illuminate Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

The natural effect gives the illusion that bright orange lava is flowing off the cliff at the park in California. This magic trick is a natural occurrence that only happens for a couple of weeks each February and draws hundreds of visitors each night.
The "firefall" comes to life when the angle of the setting sun causes light to hit the waterfall just right; making for some amazing Instagram-worthy photos.
    "The waterfall is bigger than it has been in a long time due to all the rain and snow we have received," said National Park Service spokesman Scott Gediman.
    "It has gained popularity the last few years due to social media," he said. "People come from all over the world to see this."

    Looking to test out your photography skills?

    If you want to capture the yearly spectacle, the park's website suggests the best view is from the park's El Capitan picnic area. Make sure you get there early, before the park gets crowded.
    "I've seen a few photographers get here at 9 a.m. to claim their spot for the sunset," Gediman said. "All we ask is you be respectful to the park and make sure what you packed ... you pack up and take out."
    He also suggests visitors bring food, water, a change of clothes and tire chains, because of the weather conditions.
    Photographer Ray Lee, who made the trek to the park this weekend, faced tough weather to make it there.
    "This trip almost didn't happen due to the crazy road conditions at Yosemite," he posted on Instagram. "For those that plan on going to see this, be careful since there has been so much water that some of the roads are falling apart."

    Need to know the road or weather conditions?

    Gediman said the park has that covered with a 24-hour hot line: 209-372-0200.