Bridalveil Fall, at 620 feet tall, is one of the first sights visitors will have as they enter the Yosemite Valley. No matter which direction you enter Yosemite Nation Park from ultimately all roads to Yosemite Valley enter from the West and pass by or near Bridalveil Fall so why not make it your first stop on your Yosemite Valley tour.
Bridalveil Fall is located a very short distance up highway 41 from the highway 41 junction with highways 140 and 120. The short drive is worth it as Bridalveil is even more spectacular up close than from a distance.[sam id=1 codes=’false’]
Bridalveil Fall – A Short Hike Away
From the parking lot you will need to walk about one quarter mile on a shaded, picturesque, slightly uphill trail that crosses foot bridges originally built by cavalry troops one hundred years ago.
Depending on the season you may not be able to get to the base of the fall as constant breezes send cold spray out over the closest viewing area and you can count on getting drenched.
It was these breezes fanning out the lower part of the fall into a lacy white veil that inspired the first white visitors to name the fall “bridalveil”. The native Ahwahneechee, a subgroup of the Sierra Miwok Tribe, called the fall “Pohono” which meant “Spirit of the Puffing Wind”.
Bridalveil Fall in the Spring
Spring is the heavy water flow season and by late autumn the water will still be flowing but only as little as 5% of the spring volume. Since most of Yosemite’s falls can be completely dry by late autumn Bridalveil Fall will be one of the few you can count on year round.
When the sun shines on Bridalveil Fall in late afternoon in the spring you may be treated to a rainbow, or even a double rainbow. A favorite viewing point for a different angle on Bridalveil Fall is the viewpoint at the Wawona Tunnel parking lot.
Bridalveil Fall can be especially exciting in winter when it, like several of the other falls, acquires an ice cone at the bottom and sheets of ice form on the rocks on each side of the fall. These ice sheets break off and reform constantly as the weight of the ice becomes too great for the ice to adhere to the rocks. It is very exciting to see a large ice sheet break off and crash onto the rocks below.
Bridalveil Fall and Bridalveil Creek demonstrate an interesting geological formation know as a “hanging valley”. Millions of years ago Bridalveil Creek flowed directly into the Merced river through a “V” shaped canyon without a fall. As glaciers gouged out the Yosemite Valley floor deeper and deeper during successive ice ages Bridaveil’s canyon was left high above the valley floor and therefore a “hanging valley”.
Bridalveil Creek has its source near Ostrander Lake at 8,500 feet elevation. This area was a favorite summer camping spot for the Pohoneechee Native Americans, another subgroup of the Sierra Miwok Tribe.