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10 Best Waterfall Hikes in the US

Hiking is wonderful in and of itself, but having a scenic waterfall to admire–or even play in—adds another element of natural bliss. Here are 10 waterfalls around the country to explore on foot and enjoy up close and personal. 

1. Havasu Falls, AZ

Image by Photograph by Arunsundar

How to get there: Located in the northeast corner of Arizona, Havasu Falls is only accessible on foot, beginning from the Havasupai Indian Reservation, which is a 4- to 5-hour drive from Phoenix or Las Vegas.

What to expect: The stunning blue-green waters are the stuff of bucket lists. And we’re not kidding—the Havasupai Trail offers 10 stunning miles, and when you reach the water, you can go for a swim. There’s no day hiking allowed on the Havasupai Reservation, and you need to score a permit in advance to be able to camp overnight. 

Insider tip: To visit Havasu, you’ll need to register online for a camping or lodge permit, starting at $125 per person per night. 

2. Cumberland Falls, KY

Image by Solomon Parker / 500px

How to get there: These falls are about a 3-hour drive from Louisville or 1.5 hours from Knoxville, Tennessee.

What to expect: Deemed the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls is situated in a state park and offers a 69-foot cascade that looks like a miniature of its New York nickname-sake. There are 17 miles of hiking trails, though the path to the Falls is a leisurely 1-mile loop. The park also offers gem mining and horseback riding for additional outdoorsy fun.

Insider tip: If you catch the waterfall near the full moon, you could see a moonbow: a white rainbow formed by the water droplets that fly up.

3. Fall Creek Falls, TN

Image by Josh Metheny / 500px

How to get there: Located in central Tennessee, the Fall Creek Falls are just over 2 hours from Nashville and Knoxville, respectively, and just over an hour from Chattanooga.

What to expect: The 256-foot waterfall within Fall Creek Falls State Park is one of the tallest in the eastern U.S. The park itself boasts 56 miles of trails to enjoy, including one that takes you to the base of the falls. There are also streams, three smaller cascades and rocky gorges to explore, as well as a slightly swingy suspension bridge. 

Insider tip: You can camp overnight in one of 222 comfortable, assigned sites for an extended experience.

4. Arethusa Falls, NH

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How to get there: You can drive about an hour and 45 minutes from Montpelier, VT, 1.5 hours from Concord, NH, 2.5 hours from Augusta, ME or just over 2.5 hours from Boston to reach the falls.

What to expect:  At 140 feet, Arethusa Falls is the tallest single waterfall in New England and you can hike to it in every season. Located in the Crawford Notch State Park, the trail to reach the Falls involves a moderate 1.5-mile jaunt. If you go during the winter, you might find ice climbers scaling the frozen flow. 

Insider tip: The waterfall flow is strongest in May and June, once the snow melts. 

5. Multnomah Falls, OR

Image by Mark C Stevens

How to get there: It’s only a half-hour drive from Portland.

What to expect:  Multnomah Falls is part of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area, which, according to the U.S. Forest Service, is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. And for good reason: It’s gorgeous. This giant waterfall is easy to spot, but if you hike the 2.4-mile Multnomah Falls Trail, you can view the cascade from multiple angles. 

Insider tip: If you’re up for it, take the 5.5-mile Wahkeena Falls loop trail and catch another waterfall, for an additional scenic reward.

6. Shoshone Falls, ID

Image by Anna Gorin

How to get there: Drive just over 2 hours from Boise or just over 3 from Salt Lake City.

What to expect:  Located in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Shoshone Falls are often called the “Niagara of the West.” Idaho’s heavy snowfalls can sometimes generate 20,000 cubic feet of water flow spilling over the falls, creating one of the most powerful cascades in the U.S. 

Insider tip: While they’re easy to spot from the surrounding park, it’s most fun to hike the 12.6 mile (out and back) Canyon Rim Trail to take them in.

7. Lower Calf Creek Falls, UT

Image by Doug Meek

How to get there: These falls are far off the beaten path, being a 4.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City or over 5 hours from Las Vegas.

What to expect:  This semi-secret gem seems to hide in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Hike a flat and sometimes sandy 6-mile out-and-back trail to get to the Lower Calf Waterfall, and prepare to be stunned. The 126-foot cascade falls into a blueish-green pool, spilling over umber sandstone as it flies. The spot is quiet and serene, save for the whoosh of the Falls, and you might find the experience almost spiritual. 

Insider tip: If you want to experience both the Lower Calf and the 88-foot Upper Calf, you’ll be making two separate hikes, as there is no trail that connects the two of them. 

8. High Shoals Falls, GA

Image by sebatl

How to get there: Head to the northeast corner of Georgia to take in these falls, which are located two hours from Atlanta.

What to expect:  Think lush and relaxing: Trek an easy 2.5 miles round trip through the Chattahoochee National Forest to experience High Shoals Falls, a 50-foot cascade that falls into a lovely pool. You’ll first encounter Blue Hole Falls as you walk, and can enjoy the quiet of the old-growth forest and ease of the nearby creek.

Insider tip: About a half-mile into the hike, you’ll come across a creek where the bridge washed out—expect to use stepping stones or wade across it. 

9. Hamilton Pool Waterfall, TX

Image by Shahin Abasov / 500px

How to get there: It’s just a short 45 minutes west of Austin.

What to expect:  Swimming is the thing at this lovely green grotto, yet the 50-foot cascade still seems exotic. The Hamilton Pool Preserve is popular with Austin city folk looking to escape the city, especially throughout the summer, so you’ll need to make reservations to visit. Hike the steep 0.25-mile trail to view the waterfall, and take a dip later to cool your feet. 

Insider tip: Preserve staff monitor water quality for safety and occasionally the pool is closed. Check the website before you go.

10. Upper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls, MI

Image by Kenneth_Keifer

How to get there: Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it’s an over 4-hour drive from Green Bay, WI and almost 5 hours from Grand Rapids, MI.

What to expect:  The Upper Falls located in Tahquamenon Falls State Park is considered another Niagara for its location near the Canadian border  and its size, at 200 feet wide and 50 feet tall. According to the park’s stats, as much as 50,000 gallons of water per second can flow over the falls when it’s at its max. 

Insider tip: The park offers other gems, too, to the tune of a challenging four-mile trail between the Upper and Lower Falls and the scenic Tahquamenon River, made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem, Hiawatha

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