Bridal Veil Falls - Rocky Mountain National Park
|Trail Name||Bridal Veil Falls - Rocky Mountain National Park|
|Nearest City||Estes Park|
|Distance||6.6 Miles Round Trip|
|Elevation Gain||990 Feet|
|Low Point||7,840 Feet|
|High Point||8,830 Feet|
|Trip Reports||Bridal Veil Falls - Rocky Mountain National Park|
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This popular trail passes through the broad and meadowed valley of Cow Creek and through Ponderosa Pine forests on its gentle climb to Bridal Veil falls. Like most of the falls in Rocky Mountain National Park it is small in height but makes up for it in sheer beauty, not only of the falls itself but also of the surrounding area. The trail is known for its abundant wildlife. Early risers may be rewarded with opportunities to see elk, deer, coyote and numerous species of raptors.
How to get there
From Estes Park, take the US Hwy 34 bypass (the road that goes by the Stanley Hotel). Just west of the Stanley, turn right (north) onto MacGregor Avenue (CR 43). The road makes a hard right at the entrance to MacGregor Ranch, after which it is known as the Devils Gulch Rd. Veer right, and proceed about 2 1/2 miles to McGraw Ranch Road. Turn left onto McGraw Ranch Rd., and drive 2 1/2 miles to the McGraw Ranch Research Facility. Parking is alongside the road in front of the facility. Lavatories are available on the trail, about 150 yards beyond the last ranch building.
From Glen Haven, drive west of Devils Gulch Rd. for 3 1/2 miles, and turn right onto McGraw Ranch Rd.
Note that there is very limited parking at the trailhead. When the spaces along the road are filled, there are no others, forcing the unfortunate latecomer to wait for a spot to open up (not advisable, unless you are there later in the day when other hikers are returning), or to choose another destination. Either Gem Lake or one of the other destinations originating at the Twin Owls Trailhead, North Fork Trail 929 or Crosier Mountain Trail 931 - Glen Haven Trailhead are the closest options. There is a sign at the beginning of McGraw Ranch Rd. that is illuminated when all of the parking spaces are filled, saving you the 2 1/2 mile drive to the trailhead.
From the parking area along the McGraw Ranch Road, walk along the road toward the ranch buildings. You'll cross the creek, loaded with beaver dams along this stretch. Informational signs just before the main ranch house provide information on the history of McGraw Ranch. Continue up the road a short distance to the barn, where the road turns to the left. Continue up the road past the ranch buildings - this is the Cow Creek Trail. The North Boundary Trail originates just beyond the barn, heading to the north from McGraw Ranch. Lavatories are available about 150 yards past the last ranch building, along the trail.
For the first mile, the trail is flat, making its way through the meadow paralleling Cow Creek. The terrain seems optimum for elk, however none were to be found the day I hiked it. At about the one mile mark, the trail presents its first uphill climb - just a short jaunt, with a number of steps cut into the trail. At 1.2 miles, the Cow Creek trail meets the trail to Gem Lake intersecting from the left. The Gem Lake trail eventually ends at the Twin Owls Trailhead, presenting an alternate return route, if arrangements are made for transportation back to your vehicle.
The trail continues through the meadow, offering sweeping panoramas of Cow Creek valley, Lumpy Ridge, and the peaks of the Mummy Range. At 2 miles the trail splits, with the right fork bearing to the northwest toward Bridal Veil Falls, and the left fork proceeding up the Black Canyon, turning into the Black Canyon Trail that eventually ends at Lawn Lake. Continuing toward Bridal Veil Falls, the trail begins to climb a little more steeply and the valley narrows, entering stands of Ponderosa Pine and Aspen. Eventually the trail runs alongside Cow Creek, providing ample opportunities to enjoy the swift flowing rapids and still pools of the diminutive creek.
Continuing up the narrow valley, at about 3.1 miles you'll encounter a hitching post. Livestock is not permitted beyond this point, for obvious reasons. The last 1/5 mile from the hitching post to the falls climbs quite steeply, winding around and over rock slabs and man-made stone steps, and after this short climb arrives at the base of Bridal Veil Falls.
The rugged terrain and narrowness of the canyon limits the locations for photography of the falls. Although the trail ends at the base of the falls, the more adventuresome hiker can cross the creek and scale the falls along their south side.
As with all trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, dogs are not permitted on the Cow Creek Trail.
Fees, Permits, etc.
- Rocky Mountain National Park entrance fee required at the park entrance. RMNP Fees & Reservations
- Dogs are not allowed on trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Rocky Mountain National Park offers a free shuttle from Estes Park to Bear Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, and Cub Lakes Trailhead. RMNP Shuttle Bus Routes