Photograph moonbows, or lunar rainbows, a rare occurrence throughout the world. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park and provides the opportunity to capture a phenomenon on camera barely detectable to the naked eye.

In spring at Yosemite National Park, a unique phenomenon occurs, called “moonbows.” Seen during the full moon, moonbows are rainbows produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon, and are relatively faint and difficult to detect with the naked eye, but they do appear in long exposure photographs.

Don Olson of Texas State University publishes an accurate schedule of moonbow prediction dates and times for both the upper and lower falls. The predictions are based on the orientation of the full moon lining up correctly with the waterfall’s mist.

Moonbow conditions are dependent on clear, dark skies, bright moonlight, and adequate mist in the falls. Expect to arrive early, well in advance of the scheduled moonbow time, as you will be one among dozens, if not hundreds, of photographers and photography groups. Try the rocks in front of the bridge path of Yosemite Falls Trail for a beautiful composition.

For hike information to the Lower Yosemite Falls viewpoint, see this adventure

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Wide angle lens, with a wide aperture of f/2.8 or higher
  • Towels for wiping down your gear and lens
  • Water resistant footwear and clothing
  • Plastic bag or waterproof camera cover
  • Headlamp with a red light to keep your eyes adjusted to the dark and not ruin the photographs being taken around you
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RT Distance 1 Miles
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring
Trail Type Loop
Easy Parking
Family Friendly


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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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