On Memorial Day weekend, J and I, like everyone else in the country, wanted to celebrate the beginning of summer. We couldn’t go camping because of graduation, so we decided a day hike in one of our favorite places (Rocky Mountain National Park) would be just what we needed. We tried a new-to-us trail, and it quickly became one of our favorites.
To get to the trailhead for Bridal Veil Falls, you don’t actually go into Rocky, which is nice because you don’t have to pay (we have an annual pass, but that’s good to know if you don’t). The trailhead is not far out of Estes Park; from Estes, take MacGregor Avenue/Devil’s Gulch Road (just over 3 miles from the intersection of Wonderland and MacGregor in Estes), then turn left onto McGraw Ranch Road. The road ends at McGraw Ranch; there’s limited parking, so get there early. (We got there around 7:45 and took the last remaining space).
The Cow Creek Trail to Bridal Veil Falls starts on the other side of the ranch itself, and there are restrooms just past the trailhead (important, if you have a miniature bladder like mine). The hike starts out flat and stays that way for a long time. There is an incline, but it’s gradual. The trail parallels a stream for a while before cutting up through some gorgeous meadows and forests. When we went, the wildflowers were starting to bloom, making the hike even prettier.
The trail crosses the stream a few times and brings you to a “teaser” waterfall. As you approach the falls (around mile 2.75), the trail gets a little rockier, requiring a smidge of scrambling — nothing challenging, just fun — and that wee bit o’scramble is well worth it when you reach the falls.
We hung out at the falls for a bit, enjoying the view. We’d met a man at the trailhead who said you could cross the stream and climb above the falls, but that seemed more feasible later in the season; the flow covered all the rocks that looked cross-able, and we suspected that trying to cross would end with a soak in the cold water. So instead, we just played around at the base of the falls for while before heading back down.
(Quick side note: Another couple was at the falls when we arrived, and they were feeding a ground squirrel. So, reminder: DO NOT feed wildlife. Human food is bad for them, and feeding them makes them forget how to wild animal. So don’t do it, even if they are cute little beggars).
On the way down, we met a handful of hikers, but nowhere near the amount you’d see on most RMNP trails, so that was nice. We also saw a wild turkey, but I didn’t get his picture. We finished our hike before 11:00, so we headed into town to eat our sandwiches, drink iced coffee from Kind Coffee (the best coffee shop in Estes Park, hands down), and people watch for a while.
This was a lovely little hike, and one that we’ll definitely do again. I highly recommend it for a quiet, easy hike in what’s usually a crowded, busy place.