Few natural wonders can strike the delicate balance between liveliness and hypnotic serenity like a waterfall. This summer, plan a hike to one of these top ten waterfall destinations in the U.S. The country is full of trails that are perfect for novice hikers, seasoned vets, and children, too. Some offer hikers the chance to cool off and wade beneath the falls, and others simply make the perfect background for a leisurely picnic. No matter which you choose, embrace the opportunity to add a bit of fun and adventure to the lazy summer months.
Havasu Falls in Supai, Arizona
In the ancient Havasupai tribal lands on the edge of Grand Canyon National Park, hikers will pass four smaller waterfalls before reaching their final destination — the spellbinding 100-foot high Havasu Falls. Novice and seasoned hikers alike can access the refreshing and vibrant turquoise swimming hole beneath the main attraction, Havasu Falls. Experienced hikers have the chance to head out seven miles farther into the park to the Beaver Falls terraced pools. Be aware though; permits are required to access either site, and they're hard to come by, so you need to plan ahead.
Ganoga Falls in Benton, Pennsylvania
Ganoga Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park offers hikers an abundance of natural wonders, beautiful scenery, and of course, waterfalls. A hike through Ricketts Glen will take you through a tour of some of the best mountain and lake scenery found in the Keystone State. Thousands of years worth of glacial retreat have left their imprint on the landscape, and hiking the trails at Ganoga Falls is like stepping right into a fantasy novel that would give JRR Tolkien pause. Drainage from numerous glacial lakes has swollen and accelerated the water flow through the area's creeks and streams, carving enchanting falls of different sizes and layouts through the glens for over 20,000 years.
Hikers will get the chance to participate in a variety of outdoor recreational activities, too. Head out to Ricketts Glen, and you’ll get to see more than 20 unique waterfalls before finally viewing the thrumming heart of this 7.2-mile trail, Ganoga Falls.
Looking Glass Falls Near Asheville, North Carolina
One of the most popular hiking destinations in North Carolina, Looking Glass Falls is ideal for novice hikers, young families and people with mobility limitations. During the summer, spray from the 60-foot-high falls will cool and refresh visitors, and wading and swimming beneath the falls is also an option. Returning to the site in the dead of winter will reveal the waterfall’s namesake when the face and sides of the rocks freeze, creating an icy, mirrored surface and ephemeral ice sculptures.
Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania
The Fallingwater house is one of the most famous buildings in Pennsylvania. But touring the grounds themselves is something hikers and architecture enthusiasts should seriously consider. The property offers several miles of trails that encompass views of Frank Lloyd Wright’s tour de force along with wooded paths and scenic overlooks. Hikers will get prime shots of the house and the iconic waterfall when they visit the vantage point “Overlook” on the grounds map.
North Clear Creek Falls in Hinsdale County, Colorado
Minimal hiking is required to take in the scenery at North Clear Creek Falls in Colorado, making this an ideal excursion for families with small children, novice hikers, and those with mobility issues. The observation area is fenced-in, giving sightseers a safe view of the park’s signature, dramatic vertical drops. Pack a picnic, and charge up your Instagram account with jaw-dropping views of the falls and surrounding countryside.
Kanarraville Falls Hike in Kanarraville, Utah
The Kanarra Creek Trail is unlike any of the other hikes or waterfall destinations on this list. The terrain you’ll pass through is diverse, and every bend in the trail adds a bit of mystery to the adventure. You won’t know what you’ll see next. From lush, green pathways to sweeping rock faces bursting in shades of orange and pink, the trail crisscrosses the Kanarra Creek for more than four miles. Toward the end of your excursion, the path will take you down to a slot canyon, where you’ll get to wade through several inches of cool, refreshing water before catching a glimpse of the falls. Experienced hikers are best suited for this trail, and you’ll need a permit to access it.
Burney Falls in Burney, California
Great for all skill levels and also equestrians, Burney Falls is an easy and short one-mile trail that takes visitors to one of California’s most famous waterfalls. Even during the high heat of summer when most of the state’s lesser falls have slowed to a trickle or a dry croak, Burney Falls will wow hikers with a 129 foot, rushing drop.
Multnomah Falls Near Bridal Veil, Oregon
Multnomah Falls is a paved, easy trail and offers hikers a pleasant walk through the Switchbacks. Make your way to the iconic bridge, and you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the waterfall’s path straight down into the gorge. It’s a popular, dog-friendly trail (as long as your pet is leashed) and hiking in the early morning will help you avoid the crowds. As of spring 2019, the path past the bridge is closed until further notice, but the best views are still open to the public.
Sandstone Falls in Sandstone, West Virginia
These postcard-worthy falls give hikers access to one of the most diverse and unique botanical ecosystems of the Appalachian region. Along the north-flowing New River, dozens of southern plant species have migrated upstream to make their home in the thin, rocky soil that’s subjected to the occasional cleansing flood on the island below the falls. A trip to Sandstone offers hikers diverse trails and dramatic sights. At the end of the trail, you’ll get to view the grand finale — the expansive Sandstone Falls, looming over New River like brushstrokes against Mother Nature’s canvas.
Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California
Early summertime means the falls at Yosemite are in full bloom, sparkling with vitality and blaring their signature aquatic roar. The upper Yosemite Falls trail will give hikers a StairMaster workout. But when you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of one of the country’s most famous landmarks. Feel the spray as you traverse the trail, get close up views of Half Dome, and take an unforgettable hike, creating memories that will last a lifetime.