Best time to travel to Yosemite

Moonbows in Yosemite

Waterfall droplets and the full moon create gorgeous lunar rainbow displays

Best time: April–June


Yosemite is well-known for its beautiful waterfalls, and many people come to the park in summer to see and take pictures of the shining and colourful rainbows. Though not all may realise that they can see a rainbow even at night in Yosemite! Moonbows, or lunar rainbows, are rare natural phenomena​​ that can be seen at the park waterfalls in spring and early summer. They are similar to rainbows, but created by moonlight instead of direct sunlight, and at they are best during the full moon.

Practical info

When is the time frame to catch a view of moonbows at Yosemite?

Moonbows can be spotted at Yosemite from April to June, during the spring and early summer, at night when the moon is high in the sky. Clear, moonlit nights in locations away from artificial light sources are optimal for viewing these rare and beautiful rainbows that appear in a distinct light spectrum. Show more

Which specific locations at Yosemite are ideal for viewing moonbows?

Popular Yosemite falls like Horsetail Falls, Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls are perfect for experiencing moonbows. Yosemite Falls is considered one of the better spots, but you should get there early to beat the crowd. It's best to check with the park rangers or visitor center to ensure you are in the right locations to catch a glimpse of this wonder of nature. Show more

What distinguishes moonbows from regular rainbows?

Moonbows are formed by moonlight’s reflection, refraction, and dispersion, while rainbows are created by sunlight’s reflection, refraction, and dispersion. Compared to rainbows, they are dimmer and less colorful, often appearing as a whitish or grayish arc. Moonbows are rarer and harder to sight, relying on specific environmental conditions and timing. Show more

Is it possible to use a regular camera to photograph moonbows?

It is indeed possible to photograph Moonbows with a regular camera, but the task may not be easily achievable. Low light photographic capabilities and a tripod to remain steady will be required to capture the moonbow and its slight intensity, which may require exposure time ranging between 20 and 40 seconds. After capturing the image, you may use post-processing software to enhance its details, but nothing beats the feeling of experiencing a moonbow with your own eyes. Show more

What other natural marvels could one witness besides moonbows while visiting Yosemite?

Apart from moonbows sightseeing, Yosemite has an abundant range of natural experiences to offer like hiking through the lush forests, open meadows and exploring the granite cliffs, granite domes including Half Dome and El Capitan, camping and stargazing to see beautiful star-studded skies, watching wildlife animals like bears and coyotes, visiting other waterfalls like Vernal Fall and Bridalveil Fall, and museum programs, ranger-led programs, among others to elevate your overall experience of Yosemite. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Moonbows (Map)

Last updated: