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Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail

Rocky Mountain National Park

Northern Front Range, Colorado

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Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail

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  • Parking at the Cow Creek Trailhead is limited.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • The main building at McGraw Ranch.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • A barn at McGraw Ranch.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Staff housing at McGraw Ranch.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • The trail meanders along a gravel track through meadows alongside Cow Creek.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Grassy meadows characterize the first 2 miles of the hike.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing a comment).- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • One of several small cascades just before Bridal Veil.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • An unnamed prominence north of the trail.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing a comment).- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Spruce and Douglas fir along the trail to Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Black-eyed Susan.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • An unnamed pinnacle to the north of Cow Creek Trail.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • The trail weaves in and out of groves of spruce and Douglas fir.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Aster.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Aspen alongside Cow Creek- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Fireweed.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Aspen alongside Cow Creek.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • A typical view along the trail to Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • The trail begins to ascend near Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • The creek below Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Aspen along the trail to Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Meadows full of thistle.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • A yet-unbloomed thistle.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • A small cascade below Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • An insect alights on blooming spotted knapweed.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Another of the many cascades below Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Be careful when traversing the granite slabs on the way to the falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • The creek flows down a large granite slab near the falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • As the trail ascends to the falls, watch your step as you ascend this rudimentary granite staircase.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Bridal Veil Falls cascades about 20 feet.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • At low flow, small moss growths are visible next to the falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Upper Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • Looking southeast over the Cow Creek watershed to Lumpy Ridge.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
  • One of the many cascades below Bridal Veil Falls.- Bridal Veil Falls via Cow Creek Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Quiet. Close to Estes Park. Wildflowers. Waterfall.
Cons: 
Limited parking at trailhead. Sun exposure.
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Region:
Northern Front Range, CO
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
981.00 ft (299.01 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
6.61 mi (10.64 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,884.00 ft (2,403.04 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

North of Lumpy Ridge, away from the noise and hubbub on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful hike through wildflower-rich meadows along Cow Creek to an intimate 20-foot cascade. Less visited than the busiest sections of the park at Bear Lake and along Trail Ridge Road, the trail to the falls is more mellow than the many, more mountainous destinations in the park, and it likewise has a more intimate feel—imagine strolling through golden meadows flecked with thistle and humming with bumblebees, aspen groves alongside a burbling creek, and sparse copses of Douglas fir and spruce.

Cow Creek Trailhead is the easiest point of access for Bridal Veil Falls, but not the only one. It offers limited parking—enough room for a dozen or so cars, and although the trail is more lightly tread, prepare accordingly. The trailhead is marked by a complex of buildings; this is the McGraw Ranch, which has been converted by the National Park Service into a research laboratory. The Cow Creek Trail starts here and follows Cow Creek west on a wide gravel path along its course through the valley. Follow its course for a mile or so, pausing to enjoy the variety of wildflowers that grow here. In a mile, continue past the spur to Gem Lake and Balanced Rock; these are both great options for longer day hikes, if time allows.

The trail continues to meander alongside Cow Creek for another 0.8 miles. A backcountry campsite is available about a quarter mile past the Gem Lake junction at Rabbit Ears. In the fall, groves of aspen that grow alongside Cow Creek turn a brilliant gold. Continue right toward Bridal Veil Falls at a second junction with the Black Canyon Trail. The left spur, which leads to Lawn Lake, is a much more ambitious hike. The ascent to Bridal Veil Falls begins here, and hikers will follow Cow Creek very closely into a thickly wooded dell. Keep an eye out for small cascades along the way.

Within a quarter mile of the falls, the trail breaks from a gravel path at the foot of large, angled granite slabs. Stick close to the creek; hop boulders where necessary, and smear on the flat, granite faces where necessary. Although easily scaled with a little precaution, this rock will be slick when wet. After a quarter mile the dell opens up a bit to reveal a small stone amphitheater and Bridal Veil Falls. Another careful ascent to the left of the falls rises to the upper falls and a wide stone slab with a great view over the Cow Creek watershed. Stop here for a few moments to enjoy the sights and antagonize the all-too-comfortable wildlife, which will make a meal out of your lunch if possible.

Bridal Veil Falls is great for a day of rest from the taxing ascent of surrounding peaks or a short jaunt for the family.

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