America is fortunate to have hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful waterfalls, and you can find them in every state. Whether trickling mountain cascades or roaring rivers plunging down a cliff, waterfalls are highly popular destinations for hikers and tourists. There are some, though, that always draw more attention because of their exceptional qualities and locations. Here are 14 must-sees:
1. Waimoku Falls, Hi
Widely regarded as the most beautiful waterfall on Maui, Waimoku Falls drops 400’ over a cliff formed from cooled, hardened lava. The trail to reach it is 4 miles round-trip and passes another waterfall en route. At the base of Waimoku Falls is a gorgeous pool studded with boulders.
“One of my favorite things about hiking to see this waterfall was the bamboo forest you have to pass through. I’ve never seen anything like it, and you can hear the bamboo creaking and swaying as you walk through it. Such a cool experience, and of course, the waterfall at the end of the hike is beautiful!” ~ Karee Blunt
2. Palouse Falls, WA
In a remote part of southeastern Washington state, the Palouse River plunges 200’ over basalt cliffs into the canyon below. A state park protects and preserves this marvel that sits close to the river’s confluence with the Snake River.
3. Multnomah Falls, OR
With two drops creating a total fall of 620’, this waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge is the state’s tallest. A footbridge crosses below the upper drop, and a trail leads to an observation deck at the edge of the upper plunge.
4. Yosemite Falls, CA
Yosemite is one of the crown jewels of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Three main drops create a total drop of 2,425’, making it Yosemite’s tallest. The falls are at their thunderous best in the spring when snowmelt feeds them; they sometimes completely dry up by late summer.
5. McWay Falls, CA
Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in California’s spectacular Big Sur, McWay Falls looks like something out of a fantasy. It drops 200 unbroken feet over a cliff and onto a sandy beach at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
6. Havasu Falls, AZ
Havasu Canyon is a tributary of the Grand Canyon and lies almost entirely on Navajo land. It’s a long hike in, and there’s red tape to deal with, but Havasu Falls is worth it. One of three waterfalls in the canyon, Havasu is the prettiest, as it drops into a turquoise pool with travertine terraces.
7. Lower Calf Creek Falls, UT
Lower Calf Creek Falls seems so improbable: a lush oasis in the sandstone desert of southern Utah. Yet it’s real, and it falls 126’ over a streaked wall into a pool below. It’s reached by a mostly easy trail of just under 6 miles round-trip that also provides views of Native American rock art.
8. Lower Yellowstone Falls, WY
There are two drops to Yellowstone Falls, and the lower one is the more spectacular. The Yellowstone River tumbles 308’ here and then races through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Most people view the waterfall from Artist Point, but you can get a lot closer via the strenuous Uncle Tom’s Trail.
9. Mesa Falls, ID
There are both an upper and a lower fall to see here, but Upper Mesa Falls is the bigger draw. Where the Henrys Fork makes its plunge, the cliff is 114’ tall and the river is 200’ wide.
10. Unnamed Waterfall on Pyramid Creek, MT
This waterfall deep in the backcountry of Glacier National Park has no name, but the relative few who have seen it swear it’s Glacier’s most incredible. To get to it, you have to backpack more than 10 miles and take a spur to Mokowanis Lake. This high, wide waterfall with glacier-carved cliffs and peaks as a backdrop is on Pyramid Creek between Mokowanis Lake and Margaret Lake, which the relative few who have seen it also claim is Glacier’s most beautiful lake.
11. Niagara Falls, NY-Ontario
Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but once you view the falls from one of the overlooks, you’ll temporarily forget all the crowds and the noise. Everyone should see this incredible natural feature at least once.
12. Great Falls, MD-VA
The Potomac River makes a series of drops here before racing through Mather Gorge. Although the drops are not that high, the wide, roaring river is a great contrast from the usually calm waters in this region. You may see whitewater kayakers navigating the falls; this is for experts only, as the Potomac’s currents are deadly here.
13. Cumberland Falls, KY
The centerpiece of the eponymously named state park, Cumberland Falls is worth visiting for its own sake. However, something about it makes it truly special: it’s one of the only places in the world where you can see a moonbow on a regular basis. One appears for a couple of days each month at either end of the full moon when the sky is clear.
14. Dry Falls, NC
Dry Falls is one of several pretty waterfalls in a section of western North Carolina known as the “waterfall country.” You can easily hike to the lovely pool at its base, and a trail will actually take you behind the waterfall. This was the setting for the scene in The Last of the Mohicans when Daniel Day Lewis famously tells Madeleine Stowe, “I will find you,” before leaping down a waterfall to escape pursuing enemies.
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Best Place to See the Grand Canyon Sunrise at South Rim
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Featured: Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock
Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.