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Day Tripping: Bridal Veil Falls in Franconia

Thomas P. Caldwell - September 2, 2013

Bridal Veil Falls offers a natural water slide that children and adults love. The upper cascade gives Bridal Veil Falls its name.

Bridal Veil Falls offers a natural water slide that children and adults love. The upper cascade gives Bridal Veil Falls its name.

The mountains of New Hampshire offer an abundance of hiking trails, ranging from easy day hikes to difficult overnight excursions, with the Appalachian Trail crossing the state for those embarked on longer treks. We have hiked many of the trails although we cannot call ourselves expert by any means. Most of our hikes are day excursions and we try to hit different areas of the state each time.

Last year, we learned of the Bridal Veil Falls Trail while reading about actress Bette Davis. It was along that trail in Franconia that she supposedly had a plaque installed to honor her late husband, Arthur Farnsworth, who years earlier had rescued her when she became lost. We had hiked the trail and found the falls but not the plaque, so this year we decided to return and see if we could find it.

This time, we went online to the blogs about the trail in an attempt to get a better indication of where the plaque was. Most descriptions were rather vague but we finally found a posting that placed the plaque about a quarter-mile up the trail. With that information in hand, we set out with our three dogs for our return trip to Bridal Veil Falls.

We took Exit 32 from Interstate-93 and headed west on Route 112, the Kancamagus Highway, which would take us past Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves — another place we have visited but need to revisit, for our last trip got cut short because of ice on the pathways that forced us to turn around.

Reaching Route 116, we turned right and headed toward Easton, following the road into Franconia. Another right on Coppermine Road brought us to the parking area for the Coppermine Trail from which the Bridal Veil Falls Trail splits.

From the parking lot, a short walk up the gravel roadway leads to a fork in the road where the way to the right is marked “Foot Traffic Only”. Following that right fork brings one to the trailhead on the left.

The blog said to travel one-quarter mile and look for a trail on the left. It seemed to be much longer than that to reach the split in the trail, and we believe it is closer to a half-mile from the entrance. In any event, when one sees a trail rising on the left, while the Bridal Veil Falls Trail continues straight on, it is time to leave the pathway and walk to right, toward Coppermine Brook.

We had little trouble finding the plaque on the stream side of a boulder that is slightly upstream from grove of trees lying between the trail and the brook. Engraved is the cryptic inscription: “In Memoriam to Arthur Farnsworth ‘The Keeper of Stray Ladies’ Pecketts 1939 Presented by a Grateful One”.

The story goes that Bette Davis was staying at an inn called Peckett’s-on-Sugar-Hill, where Farnsworth was the assistant manager. Whether by accident or design, Davis got lost in the woods by the Bridal Falls Trail and Farnsworth went searching for her, finding her in the vicinity of where the plaque sits today. The following year, they married.

Pleased at having found the plaque at last, we continued up the trail another couple of miles to reach Bridal Veil Falls. We noted that, while the first sign for the trail carried the correct name, a second sign had it labeled as Bridle Veil Falls.

There is a wooden bridge that crosses the brook, then the trail switches back to the left and reaches the Coppermine Shelter. Just beyond the shelter, one has to cross the brook again, without the aid of a bridge, which means hopping from boulder to boulder or sucking it up and wading through the shallow stream. A short distance beyond that one comes to the Bridal Veil Falls.

There were several people enjoying the pool of water at the bottom of the falls, with some children climbing up the ledges to take advantage of the natural water slide. Above them, the upper portion of the falls creates the “veil” for which it is named. Between the upper and lower falls is a hidden pool that the braver souls will climb to for a more private soak.

After enjoying the views and snapping a few photos, it was time for a snack, but with the falls so crowded, we headed back down the trail to a streamside gravel beach where we could sit on boulders and enjoy our refreshments without feeling we would be in the way of the people enjoying the falls above us.

The dogs had found plenty of places where they could wade into the stream and slake their thirsts on the way up, so they had a brief slurp and then lay in the sun until we were ready to get back on our way.

We encountered several other dogs on the way up and back, some on leashes and many not, but most of the animals were well-behaved and there were no negative incidents. The loose dogs seemed to be under their owners’ verbal control so all they needed was a voice command to turn away from us and continue on their way. A couple of the dogs were shy about meeting others and we learned to step to one side and let them pass.

Bridal Veil Falls is an easy hike, although it does gain in altitude all the way and much of the pathway is rocky, making it necessary to choose one’s steps very carefully. Several small children and a few older adults found their way to the falls, proving it is a good hike for all ages. It does require good footwear and a willingness to take one’s time.

A nice hike for a hot, summer’s day or a cool autumn excursion, Bridal Veil Falls also has that hidden plaque as an added attraction for those who are fans of the stars or of mysteries. 

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