Bridalveil Fall is perhaps the most famous waterfall in North America that isn’t named Niagara. Punctuating the first sprawling views of Yosemite Valley regardless of the point of entrance to Yosemite Park, Bridalveil Fall lunges 620 feet over an undercut ledge, free-falling to the valley floor in a swirling column of mist and droplets which often produce rainbows (in the afternoon). Looming directly above the falls is Cathedral Rock, and across the valley the massive face of El Capitan, along with the instantly recognizable Half Dome looming at the end of the valley in between. Viewing the scene from the famous Tunnel View viewpoint, one instantly recognizes why Yosemite National Park is revered as one of the most spectacular locations on the planet.
Bridalveil Fall is not only one of the most famous of Yosemite’s waterfalls, but it is also among the most consistent. Unlike the much taller waterfalls on the north side of the valley, Bridalveil Fall flows all year long (with extreme drought years perhaps as the exception) thanks to a large basin with lakes, marshes and meadows to help retain groundwater late into the summer. This prevalence of soil is not seen in the basins of Yosemite, Snow or Tenaya Creeks to the north, despite their similar sizes, and as a result all three streams can effectively run dry late in the summer, while Bridalveil Creek will retain at least some flow throughout the year – usually enough to send a light mist down on visitors hiking to the viewpoint at the base of the falls.