- Mileage: 6 miles roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 1,060 feet
- Altitude: 8,900 feet
- To get there: Take Highway 34 west to MacGregor Avenue. Follow the road to a fork in the road, called McGraw Ranch Road on the left. Follow this to Cow Creek trail head.
I am soaked. From the tip of my ponytail to my ankles, I am dripping with Bridal Veil Falls water. Alex and my friend Ian have gone across the waterfall, crawling over the stones where the waterfall pool meets the river. On the other side, they are climbing easily up next to it. It’s not steep or very difficult. In fact, there’s a trail up there that continues past the falls and on to Gem Lake. I am in the middle, trying to get across when a big spurt of water from the falls smacks the rock I am standing on and rains down on me, like someone pouring a bucket from above. I take the last couple steps across and place my bare feet right in the mud on the other side. I am glad I left my boots and pack behind, or I would be squishing in puddles of water three miles back to the car later. Alex is heading back across to get his camera and Sinead, and Ian had beckoned to me from above to come up. He is sitting on the rocks smoking a cigarette and when I reach him I say hi and keep walking, determined to have a few minutes alone to explore the upper part of the falls.
From where the trail ends at the bottom of the falls, you are awarded a meager side view of them. Crawling out into the middle of the pool improves your straight-on view. But getting up above the falls really lets you see them in their fullest. At the top, before the water plunges over the vertical cliff, the falls are running at a slight slant down smooth rock. I can walk right up to the edge of them and then crane my neck up at the rocks on the other side. Their immediate source is small, so thin that I could probably put one foot on each side of it at the same time.
Ian catches up to me and we gaze around at the new scenery. We, I tell him, have the best life. I have that undeniable good-life feeling again. He tells me he wants to climb up the rocks on the other side. He heads that way and I head the other way, watching him find holds in the folded rock as he gets further and further from the ground. I see Sinead and Alex coming and I head down to meet them. Where we come together on the flat expanse of rock, we settle. We sit and lay, get up for pictures, nap, sun ourselves, talk. Eventually we notice Ian high above us on the other side of the falls and wave, watching him smoke a cigarette and look around at the new views.
He joins us later, next to the falls, and nobody is saying much. The falls are loud next to us and it seems that we are all content. One by one, as we each begin to feel satisfied with our time up top, we head back to base. We get back across, more gracefully this time, and we wriggle our toes and fingers to break the numb spell from their time in the freezing spring falls.
Hiking details from “Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park,” by Kent and Donna Dannen.