Bridal Veil Falls: Trekking Telluride

Hikers in Telluride can journey to Bridal Veil Falls for spectacular views and also learn a little about the history of the small town tucked deep into Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

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 in height. Their magnificence is an invitation to visitors worldwide to ice climb, four-wheel drive, bike, hike, and explore the vast surrounding wilderness.

This is a very beautiful area offering a great family-friendly hike. The journey consists of a series of switchbacks. Hikers enjoy the brilliant, colorful eroded canyon walls that loom overhead while still at a distance to reaching the falls. When reaching the canyon’s headwall, the climb begins a series of long sweeping switchbacks culminating in a dramatic viewpoint at the base of the falls at 1.2 miles. The spectacular viewpoint is at a hairpin curve on one of the switchbacks. If you are lucky, you will have the experience of feeling the mist from the water dropping over the rock face as it hits a small pool near the base of the falls.

The remaining 0.8 miles to the top of the falls offers unbelievable vistas of Telluride Valley. Once you near the fantastic falls, you will truly appreciate that you decided to take this hike.

If you visit during certain winter times, you might be disappointed that the waterfalls are frozen. Reaching the top of the falls in winter can be an uncertain venture, even for the most experienced adventurers. Even so, the fall’s frozen stillness offers some magical moments to enjoy.

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 hike starts on River Trail, which follows the San Miguel River.

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.

The Falls trail offers beautiful views of the Telluride valley.

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.

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.

Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest free-falling water fall in the U.S., cascading 365 feet.

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 Want To Stay Over

If you want to stay overnight in the area, or even a few nights, you might check out The Views RV Park & Campground. If you have an RV, you will find full hookups. If you want to camp, you will find numerous tent locations. Also, the site offers running water, toilets, as well as Verizon and AT&T coverage. The setting offers 42 acres on the new trails. It is directly across the entrance to McPhee Reservoir, where you can go boating, fish, paddleboard, and enjoy the area’s beauty.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel or motel, you have many from which to choose. Many guests enjoy the Camel’s Garden Hotel in Telluride. The resort features an onsite restaurant/bar and a full-service spa. There is also a hot tub in which you can relax. Another choice is the Hotel Columbia located in Telluride. Guests receive a free breakfast buffet. Each room also provides a flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. You will also enjoy the iPod docking station, mini bar, and gourmet coffee-making facilities. If you are interested in a kitchenette, these are available as well as rooms with a fireplace. Telluride offers a wide range of places to stay to meet most guest’s needs.

If You Go

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