Bridal Veil Creek runs out of cliff-ringed Lake Serene and launches into the valley of the Skykomish River via one of the tallest set of waterfalls in the state of Washington. The falls drop a total of 1,291 feet in seven distinct tiers, with sections of less-steep cascading stream separating each fall. Both the considerable height and the more level stream between each section of the falls results in the total run of the falls being over 2,000 linear feet in length, however each of the major portions of the falls is quite a bit steeper than the overall pitch of the formation lets on. Unfortunately only about one third of the falls is readily visible from any one point, and half of the falls are hidden from view from anywhere but up close.
The falls are composed of five major tiers, two smaller sections of cascades, and three stretches of more level cascading stream. Beginning just below the outlet of Lake Serene, the creek sheets down a long ramp of granite, sliding 186 feet in a broad, gradual fan-shaped drop. At the base of this initial drop, part of the stream splits off into a second channel which falls parallel to the main channel of the creek. We have not yet been able to survey this channel of the falls, other than at its base.
The next section of the falls sees the creek cascade for 92 feet down a narrow constricted gully, initially cascading steeply over rectangular ledges of bedrock, and then in a more gathered manner down a narrower sluice. Most of this part of the falls cannot be easily viewed due to thick brush. This cascading section leads directly into the top of the second major drop, a 278-foot horsetail type fall which drops into an exceptionally scenic section of forest.
Between the second and third major sections of the falls, the creek drops 39 feet via a pair of smaller cascades, the second of which leads directly into the third major tier where the creek splits into two channels and cascades for 90 feet down another section of rugged, fractured granite. Immediately below this third drop the water accelerates down a bedrock chute for another 37 vertical feet, leading directly into the most prominent sections of the falls.
The two major final tiers of the falls can be seen from Highway 2, and are accessible from the Lake Serene Trail in various capacities. The upper of the two drops veils 205 feet over a dark cliff in two to four distinct channels (depending on how much water is present) and is accessed from a spur from the Lake Serene Trail. Immediately below this drop is a chute-type cascade which drops 41 feet, which then leads into the final fall of 322 feet which can be partially seen from the footbridge spanning Bridal Veil Creek along the trail.
Adjacent to all of this, the stream which breaks off from the main channel at the bottom of the uppermost tier also cascades down a chain of falls in a similar manner, parallel to the main flow of Bridal Veil Creek. Unfortunately only the final tier of this drop is visible, as the trail crosses immediately beneath its base just after the footbridge over the main channel of the creek. As if this weren't enough, joining this parallel segment of the falls is a third stream which originates in a tarn high up on the ridge east of Lake Serene. When looking at this section of the falls, the two distinct sections of flow are produced by entirely independent streams. This section of the falls however will usually dry out entirely in the summer.
As a final note, Bridal Veil Falls does present some considerable hazards, particularly around the viewpoint of the second to last tier at the end of the spur trail. The rocks below the falls can be quite slick, and there is little protection below since the stream transitions directly into the final drop of the falls. Use appropriate restraint and caution around the falls and do not put yourself in unnecessary risk in attempt to get a better vista of the falls. Given how popular the Lake Serene Trail is, one could easily create a scene which could endanger other hikers as well. Additionally, only the two final sections of the falls are accessible via developed trails - the remaining parts of the falls all require scrambling and bushwhacking to some degree, one area in particular is quite dangerous.
- Bridal Veil Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.
Bridal Veil Falls is accessed from the Lake Serene Trail, located just north of the town of Index off Highway 2. Turn off of Highway 2 at Mount Index Road, just west of the second bridge across the Skykomish River (immediately west of the town of Index), and head right at the first junction to the parking lot in one-quarter of a mile. The bottom of the falls are reached after hiking 1.8 miles, and the base of the second tier after 2.3 miles via a spur trail about 1/4 mile before the bridge below the falls. The falls can also be easily viewed from Highway 2, with the best vista being afforded just over three-quarters of a mile east of the Index-Galena Road.
Access to the middle and upper portions of the falls which are not readily visible from the Lake Serene Trail is not recommended, as it requires steep scrambling (in places directly up cliffs) and potential exposure.