The town of Telluride is positioned at the end of a deep, glacier-cut gorge. There are few sights quite like driving into town late in the day, when the sun levels on the horizon and beams golden hues that skirt the summits of the surrounding peaks. At the end of this canyon, Bridal Veil Falls cascades to the canyon floor below, and at 365 feet, it is the tallest free falling cascade in Colorado. Bursting from a hanging valley over a vertical cliff and surrounded by 13,000- and 14,000-foot peaks, it is one of the most dramatic scenes in the state, if not the lower 48.
At the top of this wonder is an operational hydroelectric power station that supplies close to a quarter of Telluride’s electricity. Built in 1907, the Smuggler-Union Hydroelectric Power Plant is at the edge of Bridal Veil’s precipice, and over the years it has served as a family residence for a mining manager and a Telluride local before being co-opted by Rocky Mountain marmots when its last resident, Eric Jacobsen, vacated in 2010. The site is currently owned by the Idarado Mining Company, which operates the site.
Located so close to Telluride, the base of Bridal Veil Falls is accessible via a short and steep hike, and the precipice is not too much farther. Park at the end of 636 Road, where it converts to a four-wheel drive road. Those with four-wheel, high clearance vehicles, have the option of continuing all the way to the falls, though hiking is very much encouraged. The grade increases significantly, and the trail curls around hairpin turns on its steep ascent up the canyon. Views toward the west and Telluride are in constant abundance, as are the surrounding peaks—Ajax and Telluride to the north, Ingram and Ballard to the south.
Reach the base of the falls in about 1.5 miles. At the next hairpin turn, pause to explore a vestige of Telluride’s mining history. The top of Bridal Veil Falls and the powerhouse is at 3 miles.