Imagine: The forest floor sparkles with ice crystals and the brisk and crisp air reddens your nose as you cherish the smell of pine and wet moss on a winter stroll among old growth forest. A spectacular waterfall awaits your arrival just a mere 2 miles up the base of Mt. Index where you’ll find an impressive rock face with water cascading in a way that reflects that of a bride’s veil. If you’re looking for a little dose of nature this winter with a lot of reward, head over to Bridal Veil Falls on Highway 2.
It’s so easy to get cooped up indoors and embrace the hibernation lifestyle that winter weather often encourages, but as inviting as a crackling fireplace and a steaming cup of hot chocolate might be, there’s so much to discover in the great outdoors! Heck, bring a to-go mug — hot chocolate is even better accompanied by a stunning view! Winter offers a different kind of beauty than its warmer counterparts. The absence of leaves can open up incredible views that are impossible to see in any other season, and Washington trails see significantly less visitors this time of year — if you’re lucky, you might even get the whole place to yourself! So, bundle up, break out the wool socks and the hand warmers, and venture out for an epic winter Pacific Northwest adventure.
- Waterproof coat with hood
- Waterproof hiking boots
- A celebratory snack
- Extra socks
If you’ve driven Highway 2 and spotted a stunning waterfall below Mt. Index’s peak beyond the Espresso Chalet, you’ve seen the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls — a stunning result of Lake Serene’s outflow, which attracts locals and visitors alike, but hiking it in winter means you’ll likely get some quality time with just you and her powerful roar without the loud summer crowd.
From Seattle’s side of the Cascades, navigate to Highway 2 and take a right turn just as you pass a large bridge over the Skykomish River onto Mt. Index Road. Keep right on the dirt road where you’ll momentarily run into the trailhead parking lot.
As you make your way up the 2-mile trail to the falls, you’ll find yourself first strolling along an abandoned road before it morphs into your typical Pacific Northwest trail, guiding you through a lush, green, moss-covered forest full of maples, alders, and old growth conifers, hopping over multiple streams, climbing flights of wooden stairs, and navigating a few boardwalks with a captivating view over the Skykomish valley before making the final climb to the falls. My advice to you is to get the 1,000-foot elevation gain out of the way, visiting the top of the falls first and stopping at the base of the falls on the way back.
You’ll hear it first, then you’ll spot the spray, and at the trails terminus you’ll grace the presence of a massive 100-foot rock face draped with an impressive amount of water that reminds visitors of a bride’s veil (named appropriately). This is where the waterproof coat comes in; it’s wet!! The rocks are slippery, but the view of the falls to the right and the North Fork Skykomish River Valley to the left are both to die for, so make sure to explore but with caution.
Once you’ve had enough of the powerful force of the falls (is that even possible?) make sure to veer right about 0.5 miles back down the trail to catch a glimpse of the lower falls just a couple hundred feet away. It’s much calmer here with less spray, so whip out your snack, take a sip of your water, tea, or hot cocoa, and relax for a bit at the plunge pool. If you’re pining for more, continue up this trail another 2 miles to the legendary Lake Serene just under Mt. Index’s peak.
My departing recommendation, is to warm up and grab a bite to eat at the River House Café. Catered to the adventurer, you’re greeted with simple but delicious food accompanied by a gorgeous view of the river. Win, win if you ask me. Catch you on the trails!
This is a guest post written by Eva Seelye. Eva grew up in the Marshall Islands and is proud to call Washington her second home. She’s an adventure writer and photographer whose work is published in multiple Pacific Northwest titles including Northwest Yachting magazine, Seattle magazine, and Bainbridge Island magazine. She’s also contributed to travel companies such as Huck Adventures and Ponte Travels as well as other adventurous outlets through her freelance work.
She’s a road tripper, hula dancer, coffee-lover, beer enthusiast, van life wannabe, and always on the lookout for her next adventure. To see what she’s been up to, check out her personal travel blog at www.wanderinraw.com or browse her portfolio at www.evangelea-seelye.format.com. Photo Credits: All pictures by Eva Seelye. Except Feature image taken by Angela Li.