Feeding the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley is number of amazing waterfalls. One of the easiest and most visited falls is accessed via the Bridalveil Fall Trail in Yosemite National Park. This towering, impressive drop sends water over 600 feet off the towering granite on the southern side of the Yosemite Valley.
Though you will be having to tend with crowds, this short, family-friendly trail is great to visit. It also only takes a small amount of time, unless you want to relax while you are mesmerized by the cool mist coming from snowmelt high above.
If you are heading to Yosemite National Park, the Bridalveil Fall Trail is one that you definitely don’t want to miss.
Ahead of your trip, be sure to check out our itinerary for Yosemite National Park. We cover the best hikes, what to pack and other places to visit in the area.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL
Bridalveil Fall Trail parking area, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Bridalveil Fall Trail is on the southwest portion of the Yosemite Valley. You’ll have to head briefly on the Wawona Road, which is accessed from the Yosemite Valley by first crossing the Pohono Bridge, which is west of the trailhead. Since the road leading to the Wawona Road is one-way, if you happen to be coming from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, you’ll have to continue on the Northside Drive until you get to Valley View, where you can cross the Pohono Bridge.
You can expect plenty of traffic in this part of the park, as it is open to personal vehicles all year (unlike the Yosemite Valley to the east, which is best accessed via the park shuttle during peak visitation months).
After you turn east onto Southside Drive, the trail is east about 1 mile from the Pohono Bridge. Take a right at the small fork and head briefly onto Wawona Road before turning left into the parking lot.
- Directions from Yosemite Valley Visitor Center to the Bridalveil Fall Trailhead (this is about 6.5 miles and will take between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on traffic).
- Directions from El Portal to the Bridalveil Fall Trail (this will take about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic at the entrance).
Please don’t speed as you drive here. Take in the scenery and keep an eye out for wildlife that frequents the area.
The parking lot can hold about 60 vehicles. While that may seem like a lot, many people stay in the area for quite some time, making parking during peak months very challenging. Routinely the lot is closed as they allow time for people who already have spots to leave. It’s not rare for it to take 15 minutes to go through the parking lot in the car as you wait for cars to enter and exit in front of you. No kidding. If the lot has a backup, take our advice and come back later in the day or earlier the next day.
There is minimal parking on the Wawona Road.
If the lot is packed, you can continue east on the Southside Drive for about 0.25 miles. Parking is available on both sides of the road here, and there is a bit more parking available than in the actual lot for Bridalveil Fall. This allows you to access the falls via a slightly longer path (about 0.5 miles round-trip).
The advantage of this being such a short hike is that many people are constantly returning to their cars, so there tends to be high turnover in the lot and spots do open up frequently.
Restrooms are available near the parking lot, but there are no restrooms on the trail.
BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail is paved the entire way. This makes for easy walking, but also reduces erosion on the trail due to the large amount of traffic that this trail sees each day.
- Accessibility. While the trail is definitely easy, there is a grade for the last 0.1 mile that goes up 85 feet. While not steep, this is not suitable for wheelchairs.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL
The hike to the Bridalveil Fall trail is short, making it so that you don’t need to bring much with you, if anything at all. However, if you are planning on spending a few minutes in the area, and especially have kids, we have a few tips on what to bring:
- Water Shoes. If you plan on spending a bit of time near the water, having some good water shoes with some grip can come in handy, particularly around the rocks. Wearing sneakers is also fine, though just be advised that due to the spray coming from the waterfall that the trail may be slick at times.
- Small Towel. Since you and the kids may want to get wet, having a small, portable microfiber towel can come in handy.
HIKING THE BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL
Bridalveil Fall Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The hike to Bridalveil Fall starts from the northeast side of the parking lot.
The trail starts off flat and continues this way for about 0.1 mile. At this point, you’ll take a right at the fork, as going straight brings you to the alternate parking area for the trail.
After the fork, you’ll start to hit an increasing incline as the trail goes up approximately 85 feet as you approach Bridalveil Creek and the end of the trail.
From the trail there are great opportunities to see the massive waterfall that gently sprays water from above, giving it the appropriate name of Bridalveil Fall.
While it may be tempting to climb up to get a better look, we highly recommend staying on the trail. Due to erosion, the rocks are slippery no matter what time of year you visit. This is the case even when the rocks are dry. People fall every year while exploring the waterfalls at Yosemite National Park. A hiker even died on Bridalveil Fall after falling back in 2019.
Bridalveil Fall, image courtesy of James St. John
Bridalveil Fall is 620 feet high. It is actually the twelfth tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park. The tallest waterfall is of course Yosemite Falls, which is nearly 4 times as tall.
Water is fed from Bridalveil Creek, which originates about 7 miles southeast of Bridalveil Fall and terminates at the Merced River, about 800 feet downstream (northwest) of the viewpoint at the end of the trail.
BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Quick and Easy. This hike takes about 30 minutes (after you get out the car) if you linger at Bridalveil Fall for a ten or so minutes. It’s great way to stretch your legs after a long drive into the park.
- Cool Mist. The mist from the waterfall is very pleasant during the heat of the summer.
- Crowds. Trying to get parking at the main parking lot may take you longer than the actual hike. We really think that if you see some backup going into the parking lot, just head to the alternate parking area and extend the hike a bit. You’ll likely be done faster that you would be if you waited for a parking spot. It will also save you a bit of a headache when it’s time to get in your car and drive onto the next attraction.
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL
The entire Yosemite Valley is worth visiting for at least a day. However, right nearby the Bridalveil Fall Trail is a few things to check out:
- Just west on the Wawona Road is Tunnel View. This viewpoint looks down into Yosemite Valley, with views of El Capitan and Half Dome. This is particularly amazing as the sun is going down.
- The Merced River cuts through the Valley and is hard to miss. However, rather than just looking at it, we highly recommend going down to the bank and just watching it. It’s also a great place get peace and quiet away from crowds, as most people stay in their cars and don’t venture down to the river at all.
- Cathedral Beach is east of Bridalveil Fall. It is a fantastic place for a picnic and spending a bit of time in the water, particularly when it’s hot out.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Ahead of your trip we recommend checking out our Yosemite National Park itinerary. We cover the best hikes, what to pack, where to stay and other tips on visiting the park.
- We have several other blogs on Yosemite National Park, including What to See and Do in Yosemite National Park, Hiking the Sentinel Dome Trail, What to See and Do in Tuolumne Meadows and the Best Hikes in Tuolumne Meadows. Tuolumne Meadows is particularly quiet and a good place to explore without the same crowds as the rest of the park.
- Be sure to check out our collection of National Park posters, including our WPA Poster for Yosemite National Park.
- After your trip, send us an image and we’ll work with you to create a vintage-style travel poster from one or more of your photos.