Hike to Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls (Photo credit: arbyreed)

The mountains haven’t gotten a whole lot of snow… yet.  There certainly isn’t enough to start talking about snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. Also, the ski resorts are still barely open, so I’m going to stick just a little while longer to my favorite outdoor activity.

This week, you all should hike to Rocky Mountain National’s Bridal Veil Falls.  It is a pretty relaxed, 3.2 mile hike just north of Estes Park, and it ends at an impressive waterfall.  However, do not expect to see a tumultuous cascade of falling water; those days are behind us. An early winter waterfall is a very different and unique experience.

At the start of the trail, you’ll cut across a large meadow littered with red-barked ponderosa pines. Their trunks stand out amongst the muted, winter mountain greenery and the yellow grasses. From here you can see Long’s peak behind you and the mouth of Wet Aspen Canyon ahead of you.

The trail, at the start is an old 2-track road.  But shortly after you cut across the meadow, the trail narrows out. Don’t worry; it is a very well marked trail the whole way. This is good, just in case you get some snow on the trail anytime soon.

After the meadow, you’ll slip into the bottom of the canyon —hopefully not literally — and follow Cow Creek. Along the trail, you’ll get close up views of jagged rock faces and a small, bubbling waterfall.

The last quarter mile breaks away from the creek and shoots up a steep, narrow canyon. This is the only real challenge of the hike, that is if you don’t run into any snow or ice.  Then the trail ends at Bridal Veil Falls.

It gets its name from the tumbling spout of white water in summer time. This time of year, it takes its name from the lacey streamers of ice spindling down the rock face as a gentle stream trickles down, between the ice and the rock. It’s quiet up there this time of year. Maybe it’ll give you the clarity to de-stress before finals. Or maybe it will give you the space to think of that perfect thesis statement for that term paper you’re procrastinating on.

To get there, take College Avenue, Shields Street or Taft Hill Road down into Loveland. Turn right onto Eisenhower Boulevard (Highway 34) and continue up the Big Thompson Canyon all the way to Estes Park. At the intersection of Highways 34, 36, and 7, turn right (Northwest) onto Highway 34 (East Wonderview Ave). Pass the Stanley Hotel and then after about half a mile turn right (north) on MacGregor Avenue. Go 3.4 miles and look for the brown sign for the Cow Creek Trailhead.

Get there early; there are only 15 or so parking spaces, and no parking on the roadside. Don’t worry about an entrance fee; this trail is free!