The onetime mining town sits at an 8,750-foot elevation and is surrounded on three sides by steep peaks. The trail to the top of Bridal Veil Falls has an additional 1,650-foot gain, so it’s a true trek for those willing to take it, but a rewarding one after you’ve seen the splendor of the falls, which cascade 365 feet.
The Smuggler-Union Mining Co. used Bridal Veil Falls as part of a water power system it completed in 1907. The falls powered mining operations until 1928, then again from 1934 to 1953 when the Telluride Holding Corp. took over.
The hydro plant was shut down from 1953 to about 1990 because it was less expensive to purchase electricity than produce it from the water system. However, the hydro plant, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was restored under the ownership of the Idarado Mining Co. and is now integrated into the town of Telluride’s power grid.
The hike starts east of Town Park on River Trail – a pleasant nature walk along the San Miguel River. This turns into the easy Idarado Legacy Trail, which is lined with plaques relating historical information about the historic Pandora Mill, which is still in operation, and Bridal Veil Falls.
The Legacy Trail leads back to the main road ending at the mill by the historic Idarado Mine. From here you can check out the semi-distant falls and the dramatic views of the surrounding mountains. The mill is private property, so make sure to stay on the road as you pass through.
The trail ends at a semi-circle parking area. Those who want to save energy for the much more intense hike ahead can drive to this spot from town.
This is where the Bridal Veil Falls trail begins, veering left from the main road as a jeep trail. After a couple of bends, the hiking trail begins on the right, marked by a 5-foot boulder in the middle of the trail. This final leg of the hike is 1.2 miles of steep terrain where you’ll climb most of the 1,650 feet of elevation gain. The hiking trail has a lot of loose rock, so watch your step as you traverse closer to the falls.
For an easier but longer hike, stay on the jeep road to the top, but be ready to make room for the brave four-wheelers making their own way to the top. If you’re one of them, deciding to finish the trail on wheels, beware of deep potholes and ruts along the trail caused by snow runoff and summer rains, and keep it slow – the incline is steep.
Although this last portion of the hike can be difficult if you don’t hike four miles a day, the views are worth it. Each switchback reveals a new view of the Telluride valley or the blackened cliff faces of the San Juans. The area is isolated from any other civilization for miles, creating a beautiful kind of quiet (broken only by the deep breaths you catch at these welcomed stops).
A little over halfway up, the hiking trail meets the jeep road and the footing gets easier. The sound of the falls signals you’re almost there.
After rounding the last bend in the trail, Bridal Veil Falls comes into view. The air is filled with a cooling mist, as the water crashes over the black mountain rock at the ridge and cascades into a lush gulley, collecting and flowing downhill to feed the river.
The hike from town to the base takes about two hours. If you arrive before 1 p.m., the sun sits behind or on top of the falls, making the mist look dramatic, but photo ops difficult, so plan on getting there a little later for a better picture.
From here you can continue to follow the road up to the top where the old power plant overlooks the valley and mountains.
You don’t have to stop at the power plant, though. Pass through the old rusted gate next to the power plant and you’ll end up on the trailhead to beautiful Bridal Veil Basin. During spring and mid-summer, when run-off is high, you’ll pass dozens of waterfalls of all sizes along the way. It doesn’t get much better than that!
If You Go
For more information, go to visittelluride.com/things-to-do/trails-huts/bridal-veil-falls.