There is nothing as pleasant to passionate hikers as reaching a spectacular, awe-inspiring waterfall at the end of a strenuous hike. While so many country falls are part of popular parks and are fairly easily accessible, getting to some of the others is more challenging and requires experience and skills. From several fantastic falls in Yosemite Park to a lush oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, these waterfall hikes are among the favorite hiking destinations in the United States. Photo: Mariusz Blach/Fotolia
»Havasu Falls Trail, AZ
»Lower Yellowstone Falls Trail, WY
»Shoshone Falls Trail, ID
»Cummins Falls Trail, TN
»Taughannock Falls Trail, NY
25 Best Waterfall Hikes
- Havasu Falls Trail, AZ, Photo: Courtesy of Legacy Images - Fotolia.com
- Lower Yellowstone Falls Trail, WY, Photo: Courtesy of Zechal - Fotolia.com
- Shoshone Falls Trail, ID, Photo: Courtesy of balloondude - Fotolia.com
- Cummins Falls Trail, TN, Photo: Courtesy of Jim Vallee - Fotolia.com
- Taughannock Falls Trail, NY, Photo: Courtesy of jgorzynik - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Mariusz Blach - Fotolia.com
Alamere Falls Trail, CA
Alamere Falls is located deep in the Phillip Burton Wilderness, near the town of Bolinas, California. The falls’ water spills over a 30-foot-high cliff onto the end of Wildcat Beach. The trail to reach the beach and the bottom of the falls is a 13-mile trip both ways and it can get crowded – it is very popular. Most of the trail is shaded and pleasant and there are only two steep parts.
Amicalola Falls Trail, GA
Located in Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, Amicalola Falls drops from a massive cliff down 730 feet in multiple cascades of white frothing water and mist. The hike to reach the crest of this huge waterfall is 1 mile long, providing you with fantastic views from the top of the falls before descending along the falls over stairs and bridges.
Arethusa Falls Trail, NH
Located in Harts Location, New Hampshire, Arethusa Falls can be found at the end of Crawford Notch State Park. The 160-feet falls are considered one of the most scenic in the state. The hike to the falls is perfect for a family outing, but you will be hiking the White Mountains, so expect rocks and exposed tree roots and a 900-foot climb over the 1.5 mile hike.
Bridal Veil Falls Trail, OR
Often the first waterfall visitors see in the Yosemite Valley, the Bridal Veil Falls drops 620 feet, thundering or swaying lightly depending on the season. A 0.6-mile paved path leads to the base of the fall from the Columbia River Highway. The last part of the trail is on the incline and gravelly, going down through a long switchback to Bridal Veil Creek.
Burgess Falls Trail, TN
Burgess Falls consists of four falls in Burgess Falls State Park on the Falling Water River, which drop in cascades more than 250 feet. The last of the falls plunges over 130 feet into the bottom of the gorge. There is a 1.5-mile fairly strenuous steep loop trail called River Trail/Service Road, which will take you past the edge of the waterfalls down very rustic stairs into the gorge. The trail and the falls are very beautiful and scenic and can get crowded.
Calf Creek Falls Trail, UT
Located in the scenic Grand Staircase-Escalante area, Calf Creek Falls a magnificent green oasis surrounded by the ancient stone monoliths of the Utah desert. The trailhead is located at the Calf Creek Campground, about 11 miles from Boulder. The lower falls, the most famous, are 130 feet high and have a deep, cool swimming hole underneath. The creek is surrounded by lush greenery. The trail starts at the campground and is mostly level, but often crosses large sandy patches that can be difficult to walk on. After a mile and a half up the trail, you can see ancient pictograph panels on the canyon wall, dated to about AD 1200.
Comet Falls Trail, WA
Comet Falls is a 300-foot-high waterfall on Van Trump Creek, one of the most dramatic and beautiful in vast Mount Rainier National Park. The Comet Falls trailhead is located about 4 miles east of Longmire. The trail is pretty hard and rocky, a steep climb uphill most of the way, with an elevation gain of 1,325 feet. There are many switchbacks and you will have to climb over some boulders. Large parts of the trail are in full sun. However, the trail is well maintained and once you reach the falls, the effort will be rewarded by a spectacular vista.
Fall Creek Falls Trail, TN
At 256 feet tall, Fall Creek Falls, located in vast Fall Creek Falls State Park on the Cumberland Plateau, is the highest fall in the eastern United States. There is a short trail from the park parking lot at the top the plateau that will take you down to the bottom of the gorge and the deep green waterfall's plunge pool. The trail is surrounded by dense forests of oak and hickory and the moist air of the gorge makes it lush and green as well as a home to some unusual species for the area, such as rhododendrons and laurel.
Feather Falls Trail, CA
Feather Falls is a spectacular 410-foot waterfall on the Fall River, close to Oroville, California. Feather Falls is at its best in April, while the snow is melting, but it runs all year round. The Feather Falls Loop Trail is an 8-mile loop trail that ends at the Fall River as it drops 410 feet down a vertical cliff face. You’ll walk through magnificent tall stands of ponderosa pine and incense cedar, going down to the Fall River and other shaded streams, and then up to the overlook, from which you can see the falls in all their glory. The total elevation gain is 1,100 feet, and it is a steep trail going first down and then up, but it is shady, lush, and very scenic.
Multnomah Falls Trail, OR
Multnomah Falls, which falls 635 feet in three separate drops, is one of Oregon’s most spectacular falls. The falls is especially awesome when it thunders down during the wet season, swollen with a huge mass of water. There is a 2.4-mile-long paved trail that will take you, and many, many other tourists, to the top of the falls. Along the path you can see falls from different perspectives, as Columbia River plunges from a hanging valley in the Cascade Mountains. The trail is not too difficult, but you will gain 870 feet in elevation, so there is a bit of climbing.
Nevada Falls Trail, CA
Below the massive granite dome known as Liberty Cap in Little Yosemite Valley, the Merced River drops 594 feet down into the valley, creating Nevada Falls, one of the most beautiful in a park known for its spectacular falls. Take the 3-mile fairly difficult Mist Trail from the trailhead in Yosemite Valley to the top of Nevada Falls. You will pass by Vernal Falls first and after another 2 miles of uphill hike you will get to Nevada Falls. The John Muir Trail, with its trailhead close to Happy Isles, will take you directly to the top of Nevada Falls.
Palouse Falls Trail, WA
Palousa Falls is a 200-foot tall waterfall on the Palouse River in Palouse Falls State Park in Eastern Washington. The Palouse River snakes its way through the coulees and deserts of eastern Washington until it drops 186 feet from a vertical basalt cliff into a large pool near the town of Starbuck. The hike to the falls takes about 2 miles both ways and is fairly difficult, reaching an elevation of 939 feet. Watch for steep drop-offs, fast-running water, and rattlesnakes.
Ruby Falls Trail, GA
Anna Ruby Falls is a magnificent twin waterfalls, which spill together from a massive cliff, splashing over mossy, wet boulders into a frothy pool near Helen, Georgia, and Unicoi State Park. The 0.8-mile hike is fairly easy, paved, and mostly uphill, perfect for a family outing. Even before reaching the awe-inspiring falls, you will enjoy a hike along a cool lush creek through the dense, shady forest.
South Falls Trail, OR
When South Silver Creek spills 177 feet from a massive overhanging basalt cliff into a large pool at the bottom of the amphitheater, it creates South Falls. It is one of the most popular falls in Silver Falls State Park, especially during the rainy season, when the Silver Creek swells to a huge volume of water. There are several trails that will take you to the falls. One of the most popular is the 7.2-mile “Trail of Ten Falls,” but you can also take the South Falls and Lower South Falls loop. All trails start at the South Falls Lodge.
Waimoku Falls Trail, HI
Waimoku Falls is a massive 400-feet falls located in Kipahulu Haleakala National Park. It is Maui’s tallest falls. To reach the falls, take the scenic and very popular Pipiwai Trail, which starts above Seven Sacred Pools, on the way to Hana. The beautiful trail along the Pipiwai Stream winds through a shady forest and at about half way to Waimoku Falls you will pass by the 185-foot Makahiku Falls. It will take between 2 and 5 hours to reach the falls and they will take your breath away as they spill over a sheer lava rock into a deep pool filled with large boulders.
Wallace Falls Trail, WA
There are three magnificent falls in the beautiful 4,735-acre Cascade Mountains’ Wallace Falls State Park in Washington. On the way to see the falls, you will hike through the huge, shady old growth forest of fragrant conifers, past many lakes and fast-running streams. The Upper Wallace Falls is 240 feet tall and spills in five tiers. Just below it is the massive 367-foot Wallace Falls, which runs in three sections. The best place to see it is from the Skykomish Valley. Further downstream is Lower Wallace Falls, which drops 212 feet in five tiers. The Wallace Falls Trail is a 9-mile roundtrip that gains 1,544 feet through a green carpet of moss, hemlock, and sword ferns.
Yosemite Falls Trail, CA
At 1,430 feet, Yosemite Falls is one of the world’s highest waterfalls and the highest in Yosemite National Park. It is located in the Sierra Nevada in California. Together with the lower falls, it creates a massive 2,425-foot fall. To reach the falls, take a trail from the bottom of the valley. Lower Yosemite Falls can be easily reached since it is close to the Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite Valley. To reach the top of the Upper Yosemite Fall, you will have to hike a steep 3.5-mile strenuous and very popular trail that starts close to Camp 4. There are several trails to the upper falls from the Tioga Road going north.
Cascade Falls Trail, VA
Located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Cascade Falls is one of Virginia’s most beautiful waterfalls. Little Stony Creek drops 69 feet over a sheer cliff in a few streams, cascading a few times on the way to a large pool surrounded by massive 200-foot cliffs. The 4-mile trail is moderately strenuous as it snakes around the creek, climbing wooden stairs and ascending to viewing platforms.
Potato River Falls Trail, WI
Located in Gurney, Wisconsin, about 20 minutes from Copper Falls State Park, the Potato River spills 40 feet over the edge of the cliff, then makes a turn and drops 50 more feet, creating the lower falls. There is a trail that goes down to the river, descending a series of steep stairs until it reaches an observation deck. If you keep going down to the river, you will be able to cross it and go upstream to the base of the lower falls, where you will find the view much better.
Bond Falls Trail, MI
Bond Falls is located on the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River, about 9 miles from Bruce Crossing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The beautiful waterfall spills 50 feet down over ancient volcanic rock in a number of cascades before it reaches the bottom, where the river has formed a little island and even a bridge to that island. You can actually cross the bridge and watch the falls from the middle of the river. There is a 600-foot boardwalk that leads from the nearby parking lot to six viewing platforms.