Best Waterfall Hikes in America Worth the Trek

June 25, 2021


Summer is rapidly approaching and it’s time to hit the trails. Nothing is better on a hot summer day than a hike that ends with views of a stunning waterfall. Bonus points if it’s got a swimming hole to cool off in at the end. With so many options out there, we thought we’d save you a little work. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best waterfall hikes the states have to offer. We hope you’re able to hit them all.

 

 

Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls Unsplash/Jan Kronies

1. Havasu Falls

Grand Canyon, Arizona

One of the most stunning and highly sought after waterfalls in the world, Havasu Falls requires some planning and legwork to get to. Situated on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, you must obtain a permit months in advance, as well as a reservation to stay at the campground or the Lodge in order to visit the falls. From the trailhead at Hualapai Hilltop, it’s approximately 10 miles to the falls with roughly 1,800 feet of elevation change in the first two miles. But once you arrive at the blue-green falls set against a red rock backdrop, it will be well worth the effort.

*Note: Currently Havasu Falls is closed until February 2022 due to COVID-19, but check the site in case that changes

Vernal Fall
Vernal Fall Unsplash/Cam Adams

2. Vernal Fall

Yosemite National Park, California

No waterfall list is complete without one of Yosemite’s iconic falls. Located in eastern Yosemite Valley, the hike to Vernal Fall is short yet scenic. Round trip, the hike to the footbridge is only 1.6 miles and the top of the falls accessed via the Mist Trail is 2.4 miles. Both offer up close and stunning views of the falls, and the short trek makes it ideal for families. If you’re feeling adventurous, continue up the Mist Trail a few more miles for views of Nevada Falls. This hike is extremely popular, so you’ll want to start early if you wish to avoid the crowds.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls Unsplash/Chloe Leis

3. Rainbow Falls

Hilo, Hawaii

When it comes to waterfall hikes, Hawaii is in no short supply. Fittingly, Rainbow Falls is located off Rainbow Drive, and the falls can be easily viewed from the parking area. They tower over a lava cave, which according to legend, is home to Hina, the Hawaiian goddess of the moon. If you visit the falls early in the morning, you’ll likely see a rainbow (or two). Should you wish to get in an actual hike, venture to the top of the falls for a new perspective and continue upstream to view a second set of falls: Pe’epe’e Falls.

Lower Oneonta Falls
Lower Oneonta Falls evenfh

4. Lower Oneonta Falls

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

Oregon is home to a number of breathtaking waterfalls, and Lower Oneonta Falls is definitely a chart topper. The hike to the falls is less than a mile round-trip, but requires scrambling over rocks, logs, and swimming, depending on the water level. The water can be ice-cold, so use caution and plan your trip during the warmer summer months. Once you reach the falls, you’ll be rewarded with views of the 100-foot falls streaming down volcanic rock coated in moss and ferns. 

*Check the site for closures due to forest fires

Amicalola Falls
Amicalola Falls JayL

5. Amicalola Falls

Dawsonville, Georgia

Located in the Chattahoochee National Forest, the hike to Amicalola Falls is one of the most popular in the state. An engaging hike, the 2.1-mile round trip adventure involves a series of bridges and stairs. It offers stunning views of the 730-foot falls and surrounding trees. If you wish to explore further, the national forest is home to a number of longer trails, with incredible views of the surrounding mountains. The hike is a busy one, so be sure to arrive early if you wish to catch a glimpse of Georgia’s tallest falls sans crowds.

IK Photography

6. Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Kentucky

Southeastern Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls is often referred to as the Niagara of the South due to its impressive display. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is home to 17 miles of hiking trails, but the falls are located just a short stroll from the parking area. As its nickname suggests, the falls are expansive, coming in at 125-feet wide and seven-stories tall. One of the most unique features of the falls is the occasional moonbow, or lunar rainbow that can be spotted on a full moon during clear nights.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls Jeremy Janus

7. Bridal Veil Falls

Telluride, Colorado

The tallest free-falling falls in all of Colorado, Bridal Veil Falls attracts visitors from all corners of the globe. Beginning from the parking area just past the Pandora Mill, the four-mile round-trip trail follows a series of switchbacks. You’ll get views of the historic power plant and Telluride valley before eventually reaching the falls. After navigating the short-but-steep trail, you’ll be treated with views of the 365-foot falls cascading into a box canyon.

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