What to Do in the Provo and Orem, Utah Area
When we lived in Orem, Utah, we decided to spend Memorial Day weekend checking out Bridal Veil Falls. Located up Provo Canyon on Highway 189 (University Avenue), this fascinating waterfall and three-acre park has been a popular spot for jogging, bicycling, skateboarding, hiking, and fishing since the early ‘60s.
It's not super large or ultra-sensational, but it's the perfect spot for those who live active lives or love to soak in the higher energy levels that only the mountains can provide. It also makes a nice side trip for those either vacationing in Utah or passing through. It's a great way to stretch your legs, keep fit while traveling, or just spend a peaceful afternoon before hitting the road again.
Bridal Veil Falls Park
Since we enjoy taking long scenic drives, we thought that seeing the falls would make a nice Saturday adventure. When we turned off the highway and into the parking lot of Bridal Veil Falls Park, the weather wasn’t the best, but there were quite a few joggers and bicyclists around. They didn’t seem to mind the drizzling conditions.
The road to the falls was closed to motor vehicles due to road conditions, but the sign said it was okay to make the journey on foot. When we asked a passing jogger how far the waterfall actually was, we learned it was only a quarter of a mile up the paved trail from the parking lot. That didn’t sound too bad provided the weather didn’t get any worse.
The park is basically a large grassy area that runs along the side of the racing Provo River. It’s located just above the parking lot and through the gate. It has picnic tables, extra large trash cans, and BBQ grills for those who wish to stick around to grill hot dogs or ribs for lunch or dinner. Populated with a large number of shade trees, it’s the perfect spot to spend a hot summer afternoon. There’s enough grass to toss around a baseball, frisbee, or football. Better yet, you can take a few minutes to wrestle with the kids.
All you have to do is pack in a few ice-cold sodas or cold bottles of purified drinking water, tuck a few snacks into your cooler, and you can kick back and enjoy the rest of the day in a calm and quiet atmosphere. You don't really have to worry about cooking if you don't want to. Entrance into the park and use of the BBQ and picnic tables is free. They have a portable restroom and easy fishing access in addition to the trails where you can walk or jog.
Provo River Parkway Trail
The trail that runs through the park leads to the foot of the waterfall, but you do have to keep to the left at the fork. The fork divides the walking path from a path specifically for bicycles as the bicycle path leads up above the park rather than through it. This trail is known as the Provo River Parkway Trail, and it runs for 14 miles beginning at Utah Lake. From there, it travels through the park and along the side of Deer Creek Reservoir. It then terminates at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon.
Basically, the trail parallels the Provo River, but it allows those who do long-distance jogging or bicycling to travel that entire distance without a break. Several bridges connect the highway to the trail. That makes fly-fishing for Rainbow Trout more convenient and accessible. Plus, it gives a shorter option for jogging, bicycling, and skateboarding if you don’t want to make the entire 14-mile trek. There’s also a metal bridge at the falls for a super easy shortcut.
Bridal Veil Falls
The water comes from a year-round spring, which starts at a narrow point from the top of the mountain. From there, the waterfall expands outward like a fan and descends the mountainous terrain in two steps opening up into a wide, lacy veil. Because it looks like a wedding veil, local residents began calling the waterfall Bridal Veil Falls in the 1880s, and locals continue to use that name today.
At the bottom of the falls is a shallow pool of water. During the summertime, visitors use the pool for swimming and wading. It’s extremely shallow though. However, it seems to be a popular spot for wedding proposals and engagement pictures.
In addition to wading, the kids can feed the fish and ducks that populate the pond. The fish-food machine requires quarters, so make sure you have a few in your pocket. Also, check out the following video that shows what the falls looks like in the summertime.
Bridal Veil Falls in the Summertime
Ice fishing and hiking are also popular here, but the parking lot and trail through the park can be hazardous during the winter. Most use the large metal bridge that connects Highway 189 to the falls instead. You can also see the icy waterfall from the highway itself if you don’t want to make the trek over the bridge. Scenic turnouts make viewing easy.
If you’re not planning on visiting Utah this summer, you might want to check out the area during the wintertime. This view from a helicopter is absolutely breathtaking!
Bridal Veil Falls in the Winter
Destroyed by Avalanches
Not everyone is as excited about visiting the falls as we were. One reason is because it used to be a huge tourist attraction spot at one time. They had:
- a tram that took you to the very top of the waterfall
- a visitor’s center
- a gift shop
- a restaurant built into one of the cliffs at the top
- a dance hall
In addition, the Herber Valley Railroad train ride also included a view of the falls in their Provo Canyon package. However, all of that changed when an avalanche destroyed the tram. At that time, the avalanche was thought to be a freak accident, so the tram and visitor’s center was rebuilt. That made way for the tram ride to begin functioning again. But in 1996, another destructive avalanche hit. The tram was never rebuilt after that, which is understandable since the avalanches have continued.
The following video shows you what a recent avalanche at the falls looks like. The man who caught the avalanche on film was only able to record the beginning of it because his camera battery was going out. For that reason, the video loses sound and shuts off before the end of the avalanche, but it captures the essence of why Bridal Veil Falls was never rebuilt again.
Avalanche At Bridal Veil Falls Caught on Video
Nature still wasn’t through with the falls, however. In 2008, a fire destroyed what was left. At that point, the tramlines were cut down, the railroad removed their tracks, and the tracks were converted into the recreational trail that’s used by hundreds of joggers and bikers today. Stories of what once was continue to circulate, so it’s no wonder that some visitors are disappointed when they discover that the falls are only a simple waterfall and a small recreational park.
Experienced Hikers Continue to Climb the Falls
Those who use the Bridal Veil Falls area to jog, bike, skateboard, or hike do not seem to mind that the train tracks are now a jogging trail. By the time we reached the bottom of the falls that Saturday, it had started to rain, but no one was running for cover. They were still jogging, riding their bikes, or hiking as if it were nothing more than a warm summer’s day.
Although the avalanche and fire destroyed easy access to the mountain, visitors can still hike up a small, steep climb to a grassy knoll for a closer look at the waterfall. For more experienced hikers, a way to the top still exists, but as the following video explains at the end, you don’t want to take this type of hike without a guide who has made the climb before.
Bridal Veil Falls is Worth the Visit
Although the lodge, restaurant, tram, and other attractions are no longer there, Bridal Veil Falls is still worth the time to stop by for a visit. If you’re traveling through Utah or on vacation, getting in your daily exercise and activity continues to be important, and there isn’t a better way to do that than to take a short trip to the falls. Even if your plans include major outings such as a visit to Utah's Hogle Zoo, you'll still want to squeeze in enough time to visit the falls.
The scenery is gorgeous, the hiking trail is paved with a slight to steep incline, the roar of the Provo River is soothing, and there’s plenty of room to stretch your legs and take a relaxing break. Throwing a few pork shoulder strips on the BBQ or grilling up a nicely seasoned fat, juicy burger or chicken breast makes an easy meal you can’t buy anywhere else for less. So if you’re planning on being in the Provo or Orem, Utah area this summer, don’t miss this wonderful excursion. It’s a nice way to get yourself energized for the rest of your trip.