A Worthwhile Challenge
Bridal Veil Falls Hike, Gold Bar
First and foremost, high five for the fact that we not only conquered a trail that has been on our to do list for years, but also conquered the first challenge hike we set for 2019. And challenge would be “THE” perfect word to use when describing this hike, unless you are one of those awesome super hikers that is (I’m not). It was not easy, but worth it, and one I am most definitely proud to say that I’ve been there, done that.
Before we get to the good stuff (that gorgeous waterfall at the end of the trail), lets get the trail itself out of the way. Bridal Veil Falls is located right off Highway 2, off to the right before crossing the bridge that crosses the Skykomish River as you head into index. While plenty of trails have long, bumpy, dirt roads that take you to them, this isn’t one of them. It’s a short drive to the trail head, and all you need to remember is to stay to the right.
Of important note, a Northwest Forest Pass is required for this trail. An annual pass can be purchased that can get you access to this trail and lots of others in our area. You also have the option of buying a day pass for $5 at the trail head (bring cash). We go with option two …. 1. because I always forget to get the annual and 2. I think I secretly prefer the day passes because I feel like I end up paying more to help maintain the trails in the end, something I’m totally okay with.
Once you’re out of your car and ready to go, make sure to use the bathrooms (not the best, but better than squatting in the woods ladies), then get hiking. The trail is 3.7 miles, round trip, with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The most important thing to know, about 40% of that elevation gain comes in the last 0.3 miles. More on that later (trust me, we are going to discuss it).
Depending on the time of year, be prepared to get a bit muddy and probably a bit wet as well, especially if you want to get up close and personal with the falls. This is due to rain, and several spots where you will cross creeks/streams and mini trail falls. Also, be prepared for being surrounding by lots of green as well. It won’t come in the form of a lot of flowers, but you will get 1.5 miles of forest canopy.
Those same 1.5 miles cover the other 60% of elevation gain. It thankfully isn’t all at once. Not so thankfully, it is pretty much a gradual uphill the whole time. If you are more like me, and less like one of those super hikers I mentioned earlier, take breaks when you need them. After about a mile, you’ll start to find some downed trees you can use to do just that, and don’t feel bad about it, you will move plenty fast on the return trip.
More importantly, be sure to bring water, especially if it is a hot day. It was in the 60’s range when we went and I went through 2 liters of water/sugar & electrolyte packed drinks. Hydration is important no matter how long or difficult the trail you are is on. Case in point, The SnoCo Kid and I did the far easier Explorer Falls in Snohomish and struggled just as much because it was in the 80’s and the trail was exposed to the sun. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are no joke. Take water, lots of it!
At 1.5 miles you will reach the fork that separates the hike to Serene Lake (to the left, and an added 4 miles round trip) and Bridal Veil Falls (to the right). We didn’t venture onto the Serene Lake Trail, although popping through trail descriptions before writing this, there is a bridge along the early portion of it that crosses lower on the falls. Had my legs been capable of any more that day, we totally would have checked that out at the least. Maybe one of you can and send me a picture.
Moving past the fork is where things start to really get fun (bit of sarcasm for you, in case it didn’t come across). It’s all uphill from there, literally. The first bit will have you moving uphill on the good old fashioned dirt. Don’t get used to that though, it soon gives way to about the first set of stairs, consisting of about 50 steps (about half the total stairs you will face on the trail), if not more. Take them slow and steady, and you’ll do just fine. Watch for the one with the giant hole in the middle of it.
After the stairs, things get rocky. Really, really rocky! Slow, is once again the key, as the trail is covered in rocks and you will have to climb up, over, and around them while continuing your uphill trek. All the stairs aside, this is the most difficult and challenging part of the trail, regardless of your hiking experience or skill level. The section is a slip and fall, twisted ankle, or worse, situation waiting to happen if you don’t use caution and take your time.
You probably already caught that the fun (again, sarcasm), doesn’t end there. Nope, once you climb over the rocks you will be treated to a deceivingly nice and brief flat portion and boardwalk that makes you think you have reached the promised land, AKA the falls. Then you will look up and realize you are facing another set of stairs. Once again, it’s about 50 steps to the highest view point of the falls.
If you are one of those super hikers, the last three paragraphs probably won’t apply to you at all, and you will probably power right through like those stairs and rocks are nothing. I both admire your skill and think you suck at the same time. Nothing personal, and I would most definitely trade places with you any day. In fact, I’d probably do every hike I consider challenging in the span of a week.
For everyone else, you will find that at this point, you have reached the end of the trail. And oh what an ending it is. Bridal Veil Falls is a sight to see from along Highway 2, especially if you stop at the Espresso Chalet (the place with the all the Bigfoots), but the small section you are treated to on this trail will take your breath away. It will also give you a nice misting if you get close enough.
There are plenty of rocks and trees to sit on and enjoy the falls, eat a snack, or some lunch. If you are lucky you will be treated to entertainment by some of the cutest chipmunks you will ever see. I’m pretty sure I spent more time watching, and taking pictures of them, then I did the waterfalls themselves. Which, I find hilarious, considering how hard it was for me to get to them. What can I say … cute animals win every time.
If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t forget to take the time to enjoy the falls and take some photos. You get multiple viewpoints thanks to the lower and upper viewing sections, not to mention an amazing view out over Sky Valley and the mountains on the other side. It was a bit cloudy on our trip up, but still a beautiful view nonetheless.
Nothing compares to the view of Bridal Veil Falls cascading down a 100 foot rock face though. The best part, some of it does so powerfully enough to mist you, while other parts lazily make their way down. This probably comes across in the photos featured. What doesn’t is the sound and feeling of peace and tranquility that come from being just being there.
You’ve probably noticed we do “A LOT” of waterfall hikes. That would be why. It would also be why we usually share videos of them, so all of you can enjoy a bit of that waterfall goodness in your day. If you’ve seen one of them, you’re welcome! Still, nothing beats getting out and enjoying a waterfall on your own, especially when you have to work a bit first to get there.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of peace and tranquility, it’s time to head back down to your car. That first 0.3 miles is once again going to suck. Going down stairs, almost worse than going up them after all the climbing you’ve done. It will likely take you just as long to get through this section as it did heading up, maybe even more. You have to watch where and how you’re stepping a bit more for sure.
Once you get past that section though, you will fly through the last 1.5 miles. It’s a gradual downhill all the way down, and if you are somewhat hiking challenged like me, you won’t even need to stop at all or down massive amounts of water. It was definitely a nice brisk walk back. I won’t like though, I did have to fight through the last 0.5 miles or so when my legs were convinced they were over and done with hiking.
After an internal celebration of seeing the trail head (it was a bit like the finish line of a marathon) and a difficult climb back up into our truck, we were on our way home. Thoughts afterward … 1. it was a great hike, 2. the falls were beautiful and worth the challenge, and 3. I hoped the pictures were awesome, because I probably won’t make it up again.
P.S. The hike may not have a lot of flowers to see, but it had some awesome fungus. Keep an eye out for it.
For those with not the best knees, health struggles, and extra weight to carry like me, you can do it, it is possible. I recommend doing some stairs work elsewhere first. I also recommend local Pain ReLeaf products (available at Artisans Mercantile, Snohomish, and online at www.painreleafproducts.com). i used the spray all over before leaving home, and had no problem with knee pain during the hike or my back after carrying all that water up there. Both are a first for me. It works!
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