Bridalveil Fall

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

About Bridalveil Fall


Hiking Distance: roadside; 1/2 mile round trip to base; wheelchair
Suggested Time: 20 minutes

Date first visited: 1999-09-04
Date last visited: 2017-06-16

Waterfall Latitude: 37.71678
Waterfall Longitude: -119.64672

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Bridalveil Fall (that’s right, they omit the “s” from Bridalveil Falls) is one of the iconic waterfalls of Yosemite Valley.

It left such an impression on us that we gave it a spot on our Top 10 Waterfalls in the USA List.

Tunnel_View_010_05102003 - Bridalveil Fall and the Gates of Yosemite Valley
Bridalveil Fall and the Gates of Yosemite Valley

The Gates of Yosemite scene where this falls stands opposite the mouth of Yosemite Valley to El Capitan is often what comes to our minds (and just about everyone else’s) when we think about Yosemite National Park.

This scene even graces the park entrance signs, where you’ll undoubtedly find someone taking that “I was there” photo right in front of them.

Indeed, ever since the landscape photographer Ansel Adams captured and immortalized the “Gates of Yosemite,” it was probably instrumental in making Bridalveil Fall one of the most (if not the most) photographed waterfalls in the park!

The waterfall is said to be 620ft height and is one of the few waterfalls in the park that flows year-round.

Bridalveil_Fall_17_023_06162017 - Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower in high flow during a visit in June 2017
Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower in high flow during a visit in June 2017

Even though its drainage is much smaller than that of the neighboring Yosemite Falls (which doesn’t flow year-round), this waterfall has a more lush and shaded drainage.

This keeps Bridalveil Creek flowing throughout the year, and thus it keeps the waterfall flowing.

We’ve seen this waterfall almost every time we visit Yosemite National Park.

So we’ve seen it in various forms and moods whether it glows softly with the setting sun or the waterfall rages so powerfully with the Spring snowmelt that it generates its own wind and microweather.

Bridalveil_Fall_002_05302002 - Bridalveil Fall when it was living up to its Native American name of 'Pohono' when we were at its base in May 2002
Bridalveil Fall when it was living up to its Native American name of ‘Pohono’ when we were at its base in May 2002

In fact, the Native Americans here called the waterfall “Pohono” which is said to translate into something like puffing or evil wind.

Furthermore, we’ve managed to experience this waterfall in a variety of ways.

In the rest of this write-up, we’ll go over each of those various ways that we’ve experienced Bridalveil Fall.

Experiencing Bridalveil Fall – The Main Trail to its base

If you want to get up close and personal with Bridalveil Fall, the way to do it is to go to its bottom.

Bridalveil_Fall_016_02252006 - The base of Bridalveil Fall in Winter
The base of Bridalveil Fall in Winter

A 1/4-mile paved walk (wheelchair accessible) leads right to the base of the waterfall from its nearest parking lot.

During the Spring snowmelt, we’ve experienced this spot when the entire area around its base was blanketed in mist as the falling water scattered in that self-generated puffing evil wind.

However, in the Winter, we noticed that there was some ice on the trail despite the waterfall having lower flow with some crusting of snow flanking its drop.

When we saw this waterfall in the late afternoon, we were able to see a rainbow arcing near the misty base as well as from the trailhead.

Bridalveil_Fall_17_001_06162017 - The well-developed walk leading up to the base of Bridalveil Fall
The well-developed walk leading up to the base of Bridalveil Fall

The trailhead parking for the short walk to its base is at signpost W1, which sits about 1.5 miles downhill from the Tunnel View (the busy lookout point just as you leave the tunnel on Hwy 41).

During busier times, the parking lot here may be so full that it causes traffic.

Therefore, we’ve also seen people park at pullouts across the Wawona Road (Hwy 41).

That said, if you do try to park there, be aware that there’s a blind turn there from people turning right (often speeding well past the 25mph speed limit) as they would try to leave the valley and go up the Wawona Road.

Bridalveil_Fall_17_002_06162017 - Context of the walk leading up to the base of Bridalveil Fall as we approached its misty bottom during a visit in June 2017
Context of the walk leading up to the base of Bridalveil Fall as we approached its misty bottom during a visit in June 2017

In addition, there’s also opportunities to park along the much longer pullouts along the Southside Drive near signpost V14 (also discussed further down this page).

From there, I was able to take a 0.4-mile trail (each way) to the base of the falls as it joined up with the main trail after crossing a couple of bridges spanning sections of Bridalveil Creek.

Experiencing Bridalveil Fall – the Tunnel View Lookout

As mentioned above, this viewpoint is where you can take your shot at replicating that Gates of Yosemite photograph that Ansel Adams made so famous.

Typically, if you’re driving to Yosemite Valley from Fresno along Hwy 41, the dramatic scene unfolds just as you leave the long tunnel as the road descends into the valley.

Tunnel_View_008_05102003 - Bridalveil Fall with rainbow backed by the Three Brothers
Bridalveil Fall with rainbow backed by the Three Brothers

It’s a good thing they make you slow down as you leave the tunnel so you can both react to the dramatic scene unfolding and still have the wherewithall to turn into one of the parking lots on either side of the road.

That way, you can stop the car and take in the scene without driving distracted.

If you’ve got the Yosemite Road Guide published by the Yosemite Association, this lookout is at signpost W2.

Experiencing Bridalveil Fall – the Valley View

Similar to the Tunnel View, you still get the Gates of Yosemite subjects at the Valley View Lookout.

Yosemite_Valley_099_06032011 - Valley View
Valley View

However, this lookout sits on the valley floor alongside the Merced River at signpost V11 near where the Northside Drive junctions with both the Southside Drive as well as Merced Road.

Note that Merced Road leads to both Big Oak Flat Road and the Arch Rock or Western Entrance.

So if you’re intending to return to Yosemite Valley, make sure you turn left at the junction by the Pohono Bridge (which traverses the Merced River).

Otherwise, if you find yourself leaving the valley, then you know that you’ve missed the turn to go back.

Experiencing Bridalveil Fall – the view from across the Merced River

Bridalveil_Fall_006_02252006 - Bridalveil Fall from across the Merced River
Bridalveil Fall from across the Merced River

From this vantage point at signpost V10 on the Northside Drive (typically one-way going west), you can see Bridalveil Fall from across the Merced River.

The waterfall towers over trees at its base and you can even see the Leaning Tower rock formation to the right of the falls.

There’s a large pullout area so you can stop the car and check out this scene before continuing further along the Northside Drive to Valley View about 0.8 miles later.

Experiencing Bridalveil Fall – the view from Southside Drive

From this vantage point, we were also able to see Bridalveil Fall as well as the Leaning Tower just like the view from across the Merced River.

Bridalveil_Fall_17_035_06162017 - Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower from Southside Drive
Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower from Southside Drive

However, with this vantage point, which is along the Southside Drive near signpost V14, it has the added advantage of affording us views towards Ribbon Falls and El Capitan.

There’s even an alternate trail to the base of Bridalveil Fall if the main trailhead parking lot is full or if we happened to miss the turnoff for that spot altogether.

There are very long pullouts on both sides of the typically one-way eastbound road so there’s ample space and time to just pull over and take our time.

As mentioned earlier, it’s also an alternate parking spot to the often-crowded parking lot for the Bridalveil Fall’s base itself at the signpost W1.

Yosemite_Valley_119_06032011 - Context of Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower with an alternate trail on the lower left leading up to its base as seen in June 2011
Context of Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower with an alternate trail on the lower left leading up to its base as seen in June 2011

The walk from the Southside Drive near signpost V14 to the base of the waterfall was about 0.4 miles or 0.8 miles round trip.

This path also happens to be much quieter than the main paved trail to its base.

Most of this trail was unpaved until it joined up with the paved path that ascended to the misty base.

Experiencing Bridalveil Fall – the view from the Big Oak Flat Road

There is still yet another way to see the Bridalveil Fall from a very unusual vantage point.

Upper_Cascades_015_04232004 - Looking upstream along the Merced River from the Big Oak Flat Road towards Bridal Veil Fall way in the distance
Looking upstream along the Merced River from the Big Oak Flat Road towards Bridal Veil Fall way in the distance

This one involves driving up (or down) the Big Oak Flat Road (Hwy 120) and pulling over at signpost B3.

This pullout is probably more easily accessed if you’re going towards the valley (downhill) since you’ll have to make a left turn to get into the pullout if you’re going uphill).

This pullout is after the 3rd and last tunnel as you’re heading downhill towards Yosemite Valley (or right in front of a tunnel as you’re headed away from the valley).

What makes this vantage point different is that you can see along the Merced River and its rugged canyon before the Bridalveil Fall, which sits way in the background.

Authorities

Bridalveil Fall resides in Yosemite National Park near El Portal in Mariposa County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Bridalveil_Fall_17_006_06162017 - Looking up at Bridalveil Fall just before I was about to enter the brunt of the spray zone at its base from our June 2017 visit
Bridalveil_Fall_17_007_06162017 - Looking across Yosemite Valley from the base of Bridalveil Fall towards Ribbon Falls from our June 2017 visit
Big_Oak_Flat_Rd_17_004_06172017 - The view of Bridalveil Fall from the Big Oak Flat Road during our June 2017 visit
Big_Oak_Flat_Rd_17_011_06172017 - More zoomed in look at the Bridalveil Fall from the Big Oak Flat Road during our June 2017 visit
Yosemite_Valley_13_039_20130217 - Looking up at Bridalveil Fall in the Winter time during a February 2013 visit as we walked towards its base
Yosemite_Valley_092_06032011 - Looking across the Merced River towards the Bridalveil Fall and Leaning Tower as seen during our June 2011 visit
Yosemite_Valley_147_06032011 - Classic view of the Gates of Yosemite Valley including El Cap, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall as seen during our June 2011 visit
Yosemite_Valley_190_06032011 - Exposing our daughter to Yosemite while pointing at the Bridalveil Fall during this visit in June 2011
Yosemite_Valley_198_06042011 - Paved walkway to the base of the Bridalveil Fall under rainy conditions
Bridalveil_Fall_017_02252006 - Focused look up at the Bridalveil Fall from the Southside Drive during our visit in February 2006
Bridalveil_Fall_011_02252006 - Looking up from the base of Bridalveil Fall during a February 2006 visit with a rainbow showing up in its mist on the lower left
Bridalveil_Fall_008_02252006 - Bridalveil Fall with rainbow going across it from the car park nearest its base in February 2006
Bridalveil_Fall_002_04292005 - Looking across the Merced River towards the Bridalveil Fall and Leaning Tower as seen during our April 2005 visit
Tunnel_View_003_03192004 - Cloudless afternoon panorama from Tunnel View in April 2004
Valley_View_wide_001_04232004 - Wide angle view of Valley View in April 2004
Bridalveil_Fall_008_03192004 - Looking across the Merced River towards the Bridalveil Fall and Leaning Tower during our March 2004 visit
Bridalveil_Fall_001_05102003 - Bridalveil Fall and the Leaning Tower as seen from our May 2003 visit
Bridalveil_Fall_003_05302002 - Bridalveil Fall from the Southside Drive in late May 2002
Bridalveil_Fall_006_05312002 - Bridalveil Fall from the Big Oak Flat Road under a threatening afternoon thunderstorm in late May 2002
Bridalveil_Fall_001_05302002 - Bridalveil Creek en route to the base of the waterfall during our visit in late May 2002
Bridalveil_Fall_005_scanned_05302002 - Old photograph of Bridalveil Fall from near its base in late May 2002

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Bridalveil Fall sits at the foot of Yosemite Valley.

To get to most of the excursions highlighted above, we first had to get to the general vicinity of Yosemite Valley.

Since we generally approach the park from the south (being Los Angeles residents), that meant we drove several hours north on the I-5 then the Hwy 99 through Central Valley to Fresno.

Once we were in Fresno, we took the Hwy 41 through the towns of Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Fish Camp, etc., which ultimately led us to the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Then, we followed Hwy 41 all the way to Yosemite Valley another 45-60 minutes later.

Bridalveil_Fall_17_036_06162017 - Looking back at the very busy parking lot nearest to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall
Looking back at the very busy parking lot nearest to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall

At this point, the various ways to experience the waterfall as described above can be followed.

The drive from home up to the foot of Yosemite Valley typically would take us about 6 hours, though this tended to depend on traffic as well as where in LA we were taking off from.

The drive from San Francisco took us roughly 4 hours or so.

In taking that approach, we would have to enter the park either through the Arch Rock (West) Entrance or the Big Oak Flat (Northwest) Entrance.

All the park’s main roads (except the Tioga Road) ultimately reach Yosemite Valley.

Checking out the base of Bridalveil Fall and Ribbon Falls across the valley before too much mist got onto the lens


Semi-circular sweep starting from the Wawona Tunnel, focusing on Silver Strand Falls, then ending at he Gates of Yosemite Valley


Bottom up sweep of the falls fronted by the Merced River


Left to right sweep starting with Ribbon Falls then sweeping up from the bottom to the top of Bridalveil Fall

Tagged with: oakhurst, el portal, mariposa, yosemite, yosemite valley, sierra, california, waterfall, fresno, modesto, wawona, tunnel, merced, pohono, wheelchair



Visitor Comments:

Bridalveil Fall – 1957 December 6, 2010 8:54 pm by Early Gardner - I was 15 and fell in love with Yosemite. Bridal Veil Falls was my first waterfall. I was so enthralled I left my new Brownie Kodak sitting on a rock when I left. I have been back many times since, and have camped at the top. Walked from Glacier point to Happy Isles with my… ...Read More

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About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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