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.