Bridal Veil Falls

Snohomish County, Washington

Detailed Info

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.

History and Naming

Bridal Veil Falls is the Official name of this waterfall.

Photo Tips

Bridal Veil Falls presents a lot of different compositions due to the sheer size and length of the falls, however more than half of the falls will be all but inaccessible to most. The most easily visited portion of the falls presents a bit of a challenge due to the flat color of the bedrock and the dense surrounding forest, and potentially the sun shining directly over the top of the falls during the early summer months (when spray will be heavy). For most sections of the falls a wide angle lens is necessary. The falls face north and will be well shaded for much of the day from August to early May, but will see direct sunlight part of the day from May to the end of July. Expect to have to deal with lots of spray.

Location & Directions

Coordinates:   47.7895, -121.56924
Elevation:   1545 feet
USGS Map:   Index 7 1/2"

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.

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Bridal Veil Falls is marked with the large icon in the center of the map. Up to ten additional waterfalls (if any) may be marked as well, with links below.

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By The Numbers

The information presented in this table is meant to help identify and clarify the physical aspects of the waterfall for comparative purposes. While we try to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, sometimes it will prove necessary to either estimate or flat out guess at certain characteristics where either enough information isn't readily available, is not known, or we were not able to confirm a given trait upon surveying. This information may be changed at any given time to ensure accuracy.

Total Height

The Total Height listed for the waterfall represents the difference in elevation from the top of the uppermost drop, to the bottom of the lowermost drop of the waterfall, including all stretches of interstitial stream in between. Stream between two tiers of a waterfall is counted in its overall height regardless of whether or not that section of the stream would be legitimately considered a waterfall on its own right, were it to be isolated. Waterfalls with only one drop will of have the height of only the single drop listed here.

Tallest Drop

The Tallest Drop figure represents the height of the largest single drop within a multi-stepped waterfall. Waterfalls with only one drop will have the total height of the waterfall repeated here.

Num of Drops

The Number of Drops in a waterfall is a tally of the total number of distinct drops which make up the waterfall. Stretches of interstitial stream in between two or more distinct drops of a single waterfall are NOT considered to be distinct drops of the waterfall unless the section of stream in question would otherwise qualify as a waterfall were it to be isolated.

Avg Width

The Average Width of the waterfall represents the breadth of the waterfall from bank to bank under typical flow conditions, or if the waterfall has been Cataloged, under the conditions which it was most thoroughly surveyed. Often this number will be approximated because of a lack of approachability to many waterfalls. We often utilize Google Earth to measure the width (where imagery is of sufficient quality and resolution to allow it.

Maximum Width

Maximum Width represents a hypothetical measurement of roughly how wide a waterfall could get during peak streamflow or flood conditions. For smaller waterfalls, this figure will generally not differ much from the Average Width measurement, but for broader waterfalls - especially those that feature a crest that isn't constricted - this figure can at times be consideraby larger. Like the Average Width measurement, this measurement will take into account the difference in width at the top and bottom of the waterfall as much as possible, but will often be made based on the width of the crest of th falls alone.

Pitch

The Pitch of a waterfall is an estimated - often very roughly - measure of the average slope or steepness of a waterfall. The Pitch figure only takes into account sections of stream which are actively falling. Pools or stretches of level stream in between two or more successive drops of the falls will not factor in this figure. As an example, a waterfall which features two truly free-falling leaps separated by several dozen yards of flat stream will have a Pitch of 90 degrees. Similarly, a waterfall with two drops separated by a pool, one with a true free-falling drop, and one with a Horsetail type fall will average the two, so while the Plunging drop has a Pitch of 90 degrees, if the Horsetail drop has a Pitch of 45 degrees, the total Pitch will be roughly 67 degrees.

Run

The Run of a waterfall is a measurement representing the total linear distance on the ground between the top and bottom of a waterfall. This figure is not often easy to establish with a high degree of precision and as such will often be estimated. Waterfalls with a longer Run will usually either be less steep, often cascading type waterfalls, or will feature multiple steps separated by shorter stretches of a more gradual gradient streambed.

Form

The system of classification of waterfall forms we use is a heavily modified derivative of the classifications outlined by Greg Plumb in his "Waterfall Lover's Guide to the Pacific Northwest" books. While plumb uses eight distnct forms, we wanted further granularity and opted to break down the hierarchy twofold: first based on the overall pitch of the waterfall, and then based on what shape the fall takes as it makes its descent. There are five primary Categories of falls in this system: Plunge, Horsetail, Steep Cascades, Shallow Cascades, and Rapids. Additional deliniation is then applied depending on characteristics such as the breadth of the falls, whether it splits into two or more channels, whether it falls in multiple successive drops, etc. For more information on our waterfall form classifications, see the Help page.

Watershed

The watershed which a waterfall occurs within, if it is specified, will be based on the ultimate distributary watercourse to the ocean. For example, Washington's Palouse Falls occurs along the Palouse River - which is a tributary to the Snake River, which is itself a tributary to the Columbia River, which ultimately enters the Pacific Ocean, so Palouse Falls would then fall within the Columbia River watershed. Streams which empty directly into the ocean, or into a minor basin which then empties to the ocean will often have this field left blank.

Stream

The name of the watercourse which the waterfall occurs along. If the watercourse is not known to have an officially or colloquially recognized name, this field is left blank.

Avg Volume

The volume of water present in the stream at the location of the waterfall. This is often the most difficult figure to pin down because accurately measuring streamflow is not a simple process. We will rely on USGS data as much as possible, and attempt to take into account seasonal fluctuations in stream levels if possible. There is no guarantee that this figure will be accurate, and in cases where there is no USGS data to use, it may be a very, very rough estimate at best.

Source

If known, the primary source of the watercourse which produces the waterfall will be listed here. This is helpful in determining whether a waterfall may flow more consistently during certain periods of the year - streams which originate in Springs, Lakes, or Glaciers will often flow more consistently throughout the year than those fueled by simply Runoff. The source of the stream may also be either unknown or undetermined.

Flow Consistency

A rough estimation of how many months out of the year the stream which produces the waterfall will actually hold water. The vast majority of waterfalls featured on this website will technically be truly perennial waterfalls (those that flow all year long), but some may see their flow dwindle greatly in the late summer months. This figure will not take into account the winter months when the waterfall may freeze, because in such cases the waterfall will very often be inaccessible. Entries which specify a Flow Consistncy of 12 Months should in general have an acceptable flow at any time of year (but may be better during certain periods - see below).

Best Flow

A general estimate of the best period of the year during which time the falls will be considered at optimal conditions, or flowing at their best. There may be variance within the range specified where the flow will be better or worse, but visiting at any time in the range specified (if available) will generally present the waterfall in its best light.

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Key

Cataloged Icon
Cataloged
Waterfalls which are Cataloged we have visited and surveyed in person. Statistical information should be quite accurate (for the most part), and exact measurements will often be available (information is not guaranteed to always be up to date). Detailed information, directions, and photographs will almost always be available.
Confirmed Icon
Confirmed
Confirmed Waterfalls are known to exist, should be relatively accurately mapped and geotagged, and the statistical information available will often be dependable. If height information is presented, it may be estimated but should be accurate. Directions will not likely be available.
Unconfirmed Icon
Unconfirmed
Unconfirmed Waterfalls are often marked on a published map, but we have yet to confirm the exact location and / or whether or not its stature is significant enough to qualify for listing in the database. Statistical information may be estimated and may be inaccurate. No directions.
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Unknown
Waterfalls marked as Unknown are either suspected to exist based on heresay or a hunch, or we have received unverified information suggesting a waterfall may exist near the location provided but cannot corroborate it in any way. Geodata may not be accurate, the location may not be known at all, and statistical information will be estimated and highly inaccurate.
Inundated Icon
Inundated
Inundated Waterfalls have been submerged beneath lakes or reservoirs, usually a result of impoundment of a river behind a dam, and most often no longer functionally exist (there may be rare exceptions). We maintain records for these features out of historical importance.
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Disqualified
Waterfalls which have been marked as Disqualified do not have the necessary stature or features to qualify as a legitimate waterfall according to our criteria. We will maintain records for entries with this status where the feature is well known and / or may have been historically referred to as a waterfall at some point in time.
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Posted
Posted Waterfalls are known to exist, and we may have a large amount of information associated with them, but are located on private property and are not legally accessible to the general public. Accessing waterfalls with this status should not be attempted without first being explicitly granted permission of the property owner.
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