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Bridalveil Falls, located in California’s legendary Yosemite National Park, is the major waterfall in the Yosemite Valley. Bridalveil is seen by millions who throng to Yosemite’s stunningly beautiful environs every year.
Bridalveil Fall is 620 feet high, and it flows year round. The same glaciers that carved the Yosemite Valley out of rock and earth millions of years ago left behind hanging valleys. A hanging valley is a valley with the floor at a higher level than the channel into which the water flows. These hanging valleys are the source of the waterfalls that flow into the Yosemite Valley. The other waterways feeding into the Yosemite Valley have carved the valleys walls into steep cascades with the passage of time. Bridalveil is unique in that the water leaps from the edge of the precipice, and the water has worn that edge backwards into an alcove. The source of Bridalveil Fall is the Ostrander Lake, some 10 miles south of Bridalveil. When the wind blows hard, Bridalveil’s water seems to flow sideways, and in times of lesser water flow the water doesn’t seem to reach the ground. This particular phenomenon inspired the Native American name of “Pohono”, or Spirit of the Puffing Wind for the waterfall.
During the spring, the force of Bridalveil’s current is extremely strong. Walking from the parking lot to the viewpoint of a matter of a few hundred yards, and in the spring the spray will drench a visitor walking from the parking lot. In fact, the forest surrounding the base of the falls will be soaking wet at that time of year. Bridalveil’s current is so strong in the early spring because it is fed by snowmelt, so by mid-summer, the tide is still impressive, but decreased from spring. Good views of the falls can be found at the Wawona Tunnel Viewpoint, Bridalveil View, and V14, or the Ribbon Falls Viewpoint.
Amongst all the other attractions in Yosemite National Park, Bridalveil Falls is a happy medium. Gorgeous views and a thrilling experience of Yosemite’s natural beauty combine nicely with a reasonably easy trek to the viewpoints. This means that for people who aren’t avid hikers, they can still experience Yosemite’s Valley’s stunning panoramas. The natural wonders of the Yosemite Valley are accessible to everyone, as evidenced by Bridalveil Fall. Situated near a parking lot, and with wheelchair accessible viewing points, everyone can witness the majesty of the Fall.
Several Native American myths exist concerning Bridalveil Fall. One of them features Pohono, an angry spirit who is believed to have cursed the Falls and endangers the lives of all who venture there. But over time, it has been proved the Bridalveil is not haunted, but is a beautiful natural wonder reigning over the Yosemite Valley. Bridalveil Fall is the first waterfall visitors see upon entering Yosemite Valley. Emerging from the western tunnel entrance of the valley, it forms one side of the Gates of the Valley. Most late afternoons, the sunshine through the waterfall’s spray creates a rainbow, which grows taller as the sun sets.
Parking at Bridalveil Falls can often be a problem, because so many people are there at any given time to see the sights. Many people will park on the road and walk an extra half-mile to the viewing point. Using this longer route, visitors will be able to walk through beautiful meadows. Whether it is to admire the natural scenery, or to get some exercise, or even to reconnect with nature, Bridalveil Fall is a wonderful place to spend time alone or with family. For hikers, one of the advantages to the Bridalveil Loop is that it’s a short loop cooled by the mists that waft from the waterfall, so that the hike is refreshing and invigorating. One thing to watch out for is rocks covered in water from the mist; they can often make footing treacherous. Another thing to remember is that the bathrooms are located in the parking lot, so bear that in mind before starting a hike.
Visiting Bridalveil Fall is a glorious place to visit for any reason. Whether it’s to go for a hike, or read a book, or just enjoy the surroundings, any reason is a good reason.