Do go chasing waterfalls. If exploring nature’s bounty in your own backyard sounds like the perfect summer vacation, why not make viewing the most spectacular waterfalls in the United States top of the itinerary. Beautiful, mesmerizing, and the perfect scene for that wow Instagram moment, here are the falls worth traveling for.
Christine Falls, Mt Rainier National Park, Washington
Inside Mount Rainier National Park you’ll find over 20 waterfalls, all as stunning and Instagram-worthy as the next. The first one you’ll see – and perhaps the most beautiful – as you take the Nisqually entrance of the park Christine Falls. You can view this magnificent waterfall from two-tiered platforms, both are epic but the lower one will also give you a stunning view of the historic arched Christine Falls Bridge, as the water gushes 69 feet down into the gorge. The bridge was named after Christine Van Trump, the daughter of a mountaineer who accompanied her father on an ascent of Mt Rainier (up to 10,000 ft) despite a nervous disorder.
Bond Falls, Michigan
One of the most scenic waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you’ll find Bond Falls on the Ontonagon River on the western upper peninsula in southern Ontonagon County near Paulding. The stunning waterfall, 100 feet wide with a 50 feet total drop, makes it one of the most photographed and must-see sites in Bond Falls any time of the year. From the base, take the paved trail to the 600-foot boardwalk where you can view the sites from six different vantage points. If you want a rockstar view, it’s worth hiking the trail up along the river and climbing to the top to witness the small cascades that flow straight into the main falls. While you’re there explore other trails in the nearby woods where there’s also a picnic area complete with grills and tables.
Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world is on everyone’s bucket list, and at the base of this iconic site lies the sparkling Havasupai Waterfalls. Known for their breathtaking turquoise pools – this is part of lands belonging to the Havasupai people, havasu means blue-green – you’ll find these falls near a bend in the Colorado River, in one of the country’s remotest villages, Supai (the mail here is delivered by mule). If seclusion is what you seek, these are a must, but their location means the only way to get there is on foot. But it’s worth it. The best of the falls is Havasu, 1.5 miles from Supai, the scene of Beyonce’s ‘Spirit’ music video (if you can’t bear the hike, I guess you can chopper in like Bea), and where you will delight at seeing the waterfalls gush down rock faces into plunge pools you can swim in. The lush green area is also home to a picnic area and campground.
Wailua Falls, Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaii is literally awash with waterfalls, some reaching as high as 3000 feet, but Wailua Falls on the beautiful island of Kauai gets our vote for the most beautiful. It’s also one of the most accessible. Formed on the southern fork of Wailua River – the only navigable river in Hawaii – Wailua is a small flowing stream with a single drop that plunges spectacularly through open air into a large plunge pool. According to local legend, Hawaiian men used to jump from the falls into the pool to prove their manhood (today it’s forbidden). When the water is at its highest, a single stream falls over the ledge and when low it splits into two or three smaller streams. Seeing the falls from the designated viewpoint is stunning, but take a hike on the Wailua Falls trail, a short trek down a slope (slippery and muddy at times) to venture down to the bottom of the pool to enjoy its natural beauty up close and personal. Camera at the ready.
Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls State Park, NY
Drum roll, please. No curated guide to the most spectacular waterfalls in the United States is complete without its grandest dam, Niagara Falls. Like the Grand Canyon, it’s high up there on every global traveler’s bucket list and a visit to this iconic instantly reveals why. Expect to hear the roaring spectacle before you even see them, 3,100 tons of water plunges from the falls every second from Lake Erie plunge over an almost 200-foot drop to flow into Lake Ontario. Downstream, the river rushes through a tight passage in Niagara Gorge then churns in a giant whirlpool. When we say ‘them’ Niagara Falls is in fact, made up of three falls. The uppermost Horseshoe (or Canadian) Falls is divided by the U.S. and Canadian border. On the U.S. side of the river downstream from Horseshoe Falls is American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls which serve as the observation deck. You can view the falls, from dry land and right up close in the spray. Not everyone realizes that Niagara Falls is actually a state park, America’s oldest one, established in 1885 as Niagara Reservation, which spans around 400 acres, a quarter of which is underwater. Adding historical wonder is the fact the falls were formed about 12,000 years ago at the close of the last Ice Age, beginning 7 miles downriver from their current location. Native Americans also lived, fished, and hunted near the falls for thousands of years, the first tribes called themselves Onguiaahra (thundering waters), from which Niagara is derived, and the earliest settlers arriving from Ontario between 1300 and 1400 A.D. The falls are within walking distance to the town of Niagara Falls, population 50,000, known for its energetic downtown scene and also a coveted honeymoon spot. Theodosia Burr Alston of the hit musical Hamilton honeymooned here in 1801. You can walk to see the falls for free but if you want to visit popular tourist attractions like Maid of the Mist boat tour, Cave of the Winds, Aquarium of Niagara, and Niagara Gorge Discovery Center, you’ll need a ticket.
Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is the scene of thousands of waterfalls from tiny streams to towering displays of cascading water. The most spectacular is Yosemite Falls, three falls that together drop almost a half-mile. Upper Yosemite Fall drops 1,430 feet, Middle Cascades drops 675 feet, and Lower Yosemite Fall drops 320 feet. You can get amazing views and stunning photos of all three falls close up, as well as at different locations in Yosemite Valley and on the many hiking trails. You can reach the falls by taking the short 1/2 mile path along the Northside Drive, winding through fir and pine trees to the end of the trail where you’ll find a clearing around a pool. The sight of the raging white waters of Yosemite Creek crashing down from the cliffs above onto huge granite boulders is one to behold. Spring is superb viewing when the winter’s massive snowfall melts away and heads toward the Pacific Ocean.
Salt Creek Falls, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Oregon is a nature lover’s paradise thanks to its lush national forests, breathtaking mountains, and hike and for being home to some of the highest waterfalls in the U.S. Fo us it’s hard to beat the grandeur of Salt Creek Falls in Willamette National Forest, the state’s second-highest single drop waterfall. Especially in winter when the surrounding scenery is covered and snow and ice and the cascade of water continue to roar. Standing 286 feet tall this spectacular single plunge natural gem flows year-round and is surrounded by two large cliffs and some of the greenest trees in the region. It’s best viewed from the observation platform at the top. Though there is also a steep, short trail from the platform to the waterfall’s base and you can hike the gravel Salt Creek Falls Trail to take advantage of multiple vantage points along the canyon rim.
Glade Creek Falls, West Virginia
A must-see for Instagrammers, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts Glade Creek Falls in West Virginia is considered one of the most iconic and scenic Mountain State locations. Tucked away in Babcock State Park, 20 miles south of the New River Gorge Bridge, the spectacular stream-wide falls cascade below Glade Creek Grist Mill, established in 1976 as a recreational spot for the mills that once ground grain along the creek. Today Glade Creek Mill is a living legacy that still grinds cornmeal like the over 500 mills that once operated in West Virginia. As for the falls, with their 15 feet drop and stunning backdrop of the historic mill and lush nature scene – visit in fall to see the foliage at its most magnificent – they are truly breathtaking. In Babcock State Park you can also find endless hiking trails, so do make the effort to explore the colorful visits and fall colors.
Dry Falls, Highlands, North Carolina
One of North Carolina’s most beautiful and easy to access waterfalls, Dry Falls is a beautiful 65-foot walk-behind waterfall, one in a series on the Cullasaja River in the Nantahala National Forest. The towering falls plunge from an overhanging rock, creating a sensational white flowing stream into the rocky riverbed below. You can view this beauty from a platform at the trailhead but do yourself a favor and take the short, easy paved trail that down to the falls to stand behind the tumbling waterfall and explore the tiny cave.
Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park Keene, NY
A day trip or weekend escape to the Hudson Valley is always a beautiful adventure, especially for its picturesque scenery and to see the magical Rainbow Falls. Set in Ulster County’s Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the 150-foot waterfall cascades down from the Great Range in the Adirondack Mountains. A beautiful oasis in the High Peaks this stunning nature shower gets its name from the rainbow that often forms on the glistening waters when the sun hits the rock wall. To reach this stunner, take the 1.5-mile Gorge Trail through the 400-foot-deep gorge to Rainbow Falls and Triple Cascade (opposite). It’s also well worth trekking through the state park to explore the hardwood forests, the falls, three lakes, and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the Catskills.