Friday, November 20, 2015

Hiking the Northwest's Greatest Hits: Bridal Veil Falls

On this cool late autumn day in the Cascade foothills, it's not raining but water is everywhere.  As we're hiking up the Lake Serene trail to Bridal Veil Falls off Highway 2 northeast of Seattle, there's ample evidence of yesterday's deluge. 

Everything is slick with moisture, from spongy green moss, shiny leaves, and muddy trail. Streams we cross are swollen with runoff. Little waterfalls and streams course downhill, criss-crossing the trail and causing us to jump carefully from rock to rock, not always  keeping our feet dry.

There's a reason our mountains are called the Cascades.

Surprisingly, while I've been to Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland and Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley, this is my first trip here, in my home state. I used to bypass the foothills hikes, seeking the thrill of higher elevations and sweeping, panoramic views.  But in recent years I mix it up. 

With a heavy rain yesterday and another storm heading our way, the number of hikers venturing out is less than normal on a weekend day. We easily snag a space in the usually full parking lot at the trailhead and head up through the lush mossy forest.





 
For the first mile or so, the trail is pretty mellow through second-growth forest, and then it takes a decidedly steeper turn.


Thankfully stairs have been added in this especially wet (today) section of trail. Some places we have to step outside the stairs, though, because they've become big puddles.

And then there are those multiple little streams flowing over the trail, literally keeping us on our toes with each step.


By the time we reach the Bridal Veil Falls cutoff, with 1/2 mile to the waterfalls viewpoint, a damp mist is beginning to pervade the forest.


After scrambling up the final steps to the viewpoint, I turn around to my hiking buddies and say WOW! Bridal Veil Falls (at least the small portion of 1,000-foot-+ waterfalls we can see from the trail) is raging

As the torrent of water tumbles down, heavy mist roils upward as if from a steaming cauldron. To avoid getting really wet, I zip up my water repellent jacket and hood.






Because we're hiking with intentional silence today, we go off the trail into the woods near the waterfalls and throw down sit pads (to avoid a wet bum). Then we sit for about 10 minutes and listen to the water pummeling the rocks. 

It's magnificent.



Then we're off. I imagine on a warm summer day there's competition for space at the viewpoint, but today it's not bad.


On our way down, the mist seems to be increasing lower down the trail.  Personally, I think it makes the hike even more lovely.

 

On the last half mile or so, I slow down and take in the beautiful misty, mossy forest. I always find it nourishing to be out here. I hope you do, too.



Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! And I'd love to hear in the comments below about your Northwest experiences.

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When You Go
Depending on traffic, it's about a 90-minute drive to the trailhead from Seattle, a little over 21 miles east of Monroe off Highway 2 on the Mt. Index Road (just before the bridge over the Skykomish River). We gained about 1,000 feet in elevation and hiked about 4 miles roundtrip to the waterfalls and back, with the last .5 mile to the falls mostly up steps and boardwalks. This hike is low enough that much of it is hikeable year-round, although beware ice on the trail during the winter. Don't forget to put your Northwest Forest Pass on the dashboard of your rig while parked in the lot.

9 comments:

JoJo said...

Is this before the road closure b/t Skykomish to Stevens Pass? If not you were lucky to get up there before they shut it down.

Lainey Piland said...

That's a ton of water going coming down the falls! What a perfect misty, wet Washington hike. I love hiking on cloudy/foggy/rainy days, because there are fewer people on the trail and the scenery is just magical. Love your photos, as always... I can almost feel that cold spray on my face!

jill said...

JoJo, this was right before the storm that closed the highway, by two days. They have reopened to one lane now, but what a mess! Happy Thanksgiving!

Lainey, thanks so much. Yes so agree on the misty rainy days unless it's a torrential downpour. :) Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Marie said...

Looks absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful photos and writing.

Suezy Proctor said...

Isn’t it great to be one of the few on the trail so that you can go at your own pace and have access to the phenomenal vantage points? Love the moss covered everything! It’s been years since I was on that trail. I remember reaching the top of the steps to view the falls from the top and that’s where I’d eat my lunch and stay a while. Hiking over water running over the trail always freaked me out. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Jillian KyungJa Graham said...

Fabulous photos and write-up!

jill said...

Marie, thanks for your feed back! It was indeed a gorgeous day/hike.

Jillian, thank you for taking the time to click on the link and read! Glad you enjoyed. Hope to see you sooner than later.

Suezy, Glad you enjoyed your memory lane trip. Thanks so much for this and other comments, I really appreciate!

jenny valencourt said...

Jill, I absolutely love your blog! Your photos are always gorgeous, and your adventures inspiring.

jill said...

Jenny, Thank you so much for your enthusiastic feedback! It makes my heart sing to know I've touched or inspired others. Peace and adventure to you this holiday season.