Travelers through the Columbia Gorge often stop at the wildly popular Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s most visited attraction. For those who can’t stand the crowds, the equally charming Bridal Veil Falls may be more to your liking. Bridal Veil Falls is a bit down the road from Multnomah Falls, and is located near milepost 28 on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Bridal Veil Falls is really a series of two falls that drop in rapid succession to create that “bridal veil” appearance.
What to see
Bridal Veil Falls State Park is situated in a large stand of timber. There’s lots of grassy areas for picnicking, picnic tables, plenty of parking, and restrooms. The park is free to use, and visitors can easily find themselves spending at least 2-3 hours at this beautiful spot. Kids and parents alike will enjoy stretching their legs and seeing the sights.
To the east of the parking lot are two trailheads, both which are very well marked.
The upper trail is more of an interpretive trail with a nicely paved, wheelchair friendly path that leads visitors to some spectacular views of the Columbia River. You can’t see the falls from this trail, but what you will see are lots of very distinctive native plants, great views of the gorge, including a 120 foot basalt formation called the “Pillars of Hercules.” This trail is about 1.5 miles in length, and extremely easy to walk for people of all ages and limitations.
The lower trail is a bit more difficult to hike. Even though it’s less than 1/2 mile to Bridal Veil Falls, it is a steep trail with lots of switch backs. It is most definitely not for wheelchairs or strollers, or the out-of-shape. The trail descends into the bottom of the canyon where the hiker crosses over a small bridge, and then can climb a short 30 step (or so) staircase to a wooden viewing platform. The day we were here, there were less than 10 people viewing the falls.
Getting back of course takes a little longer because of the steep incline. Fortunately, there are a number of benches along the way where visitors can stop and catch their breath.
Other helpful information
There are several points worth nothing:
1) There aren’t any water fountains along the trail heads so packing some bottled water along is a good idea.
2) While the upper trail is easy enough, the lower trail to the falls requires better footwear than a pair of $1 flip flops. Tennis shoes or something with a grip is the best choice since the trail can be a little rocky at times.
3) Even though we saw a few unauthorized shortcuts, it’s really best to stick on the path since there is a little bit of poison ivy around.
4) And, before blindly heading on down the trails, it’s best to read the visitor’s kiosk first. The kiosk gives you the hiking distance of both trails, the difficulty of the hike, and other important information that can help you decide which of the trails might be better suited for you and your family.
For more information, call 1-800-551-6949 or visit www.oregonstateparks.org.