TLC once warned us “don’t go chasing waterfalls,” but in reality, waterfalls are some of the most sought-after natural sites in the world. A waterfall can be an awe-inspiring end to a tough hike, or a place to set up a picnic after taking a stroll through the forest. For those living in the United States, a sparkling waterfall may be the kind of thing you would expect to see in a far-off place, like a rainforest in South America. While there are no shortages of waterfalls across the planet, there are many you can explore right in the continental U.S., too. Here are some of our favorites.
Multnomah Falls: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
The Columbia River Gorge is a natural wonderland for hikers, and features hundreds of miles of public trails for those seeking to explore all the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. However, the star attraction is this 620-foot waterfall, which is active all year long. For a truly special experience, head to the falls in the spring, when wildflowers on the trail are in full bloom. Just make sure to head out early, as over two million visitors hit up the waterfall each year to take in this natural wonder.
Tahquamenon Falls: Paradise, Michigan
There are actually two waterfalls that encompass the Tahquamenon Falls. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, while four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, which consists of five smaller falls that surround a small island. The amber color of the river supplying the waterfalls comes from tannins leached from the cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees in the swamps drained by the river. As most of the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is undeveloped, you may find quite a bit of wildlife when you go hiking across this 13-acre area, including Black bears, coyotes, otters, deer, foxes, porcupines, beavers, and minks.
Bridalveil Falls: Yosemite National Park, California
Bridalveil Falls gets its name from the fact that it resembles the veil a bride wears at her wedding. It’s the first waterfall visitors encounter upon arriving in the Yosemite Valley, and the over 600-foot wonder can be viewed while hiking. Although waterfall trail is open year round, those who visit heed this warning: Depending on when you decide to make your trek, you may get wet! In the springtime, the stream thunders due to snowfall — and it’s so strong that it can make it challenging to access the trail. For those planning to visit during the winter months, keep in mind that the trail may be icy — though the view will be no less spectacular.
Havasu Falls: Supai, Arizona
Located on the Havasupai Reservation, the Havasu Falls is famous for its blue-green water, which is due to minerals like calcium carbonate and magnesium. Those who wish to take in this unique waterfall, however, should plan significantly in advance: You have to book a 3-day permit in order to take the 10-mile hike to the falls. If you want to explore the falls, but don’t want to carry all your gear yourself, you can pay to have a mule carry your food and supplies down the trail. While the trip isn’t for the novice hiker, it’s certainly a bucket list place to visit — and your photos will be gorgeous.
Ruby Falls: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Who says waterfalls have to glisten in the sunshine? . Discovered in 1928 within Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls is the United States’ tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. Instead of heading down a long trail, a glass elevator carries you to the depths of the underground cavern so you can see the 260-foot waterfall for yourself.
Kent Falls: Kent Falls State Park, Connecticut
This cascading waterfall is located in the Litchfield Hills and is accessible by a quick hike. You can take photos of the waterfall, which has a 250-foot drop, from the covered bridge. When you’re done taking in the awe-inspiring sight, you can visit the park’s grassy areas to set up a picnic, or even relax by the fire pits. Make sure to arrive early to this waterfall: once the parking lot is closed at the end of the day, the trail is inaccessible.
Calf Creek Falls: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Calf Creek Falls is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit within the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, and for good reason. Upon arrival, you’ll find the 126-foot waterfall cascading into super clear water. The 6.7-mile out and back trail is well worth the hike, even in the summer, because the mist from the waterfalls make the area a cool reprieve from the strong Utah sun. Visitors looking to take a dip can cool off in the swimming area right below the falls. Just keep in mind that the pool is a hugely popular destination, so hitting up the trail on off-hours will mean less crowds.
Main photo by Papuchalka - kaelaimages/Shutterstock.