8 Most Thrilling Waterfalls in the U.S. That Will Make Your Jaw Drop
Witness magnificent displays of natural beauty where water crashes down on stone.
Thanks to its vast geographic diversity, the U.S. is home to thousands of breathtaking waterfalls. And they aren't just beautiful. An important part of the our ecosystem, waterfalls pump oxygen and nutrients into waterways, which helps aquatic life live and breathe.
Typically the best time of year to view most waterfalls at the height of their powers is early spring after snows have melted. But always check on accessibility before taking off—sometimes park roads are closed due to flooding damage at that time of year.
Ousel Falls, Montana
Located in the town of Big Sky, Montana, the 100-foot Ousel Falls can be reached via a 1.6-mile, round-trip hike, which starts at Ousel Falls Park. Wooded trails, three bridges, and the Gallatin River are all part of the route. Visitors can enjoy a picnic at the waterfall's refreshing pool, before exploring other areas of the trail.
It's a particular favorite waterfall for Meredith Fontana, a hiking guide and outdoor educator. "I have guided clients here many times," she says. "And it is always one of the highlights of their trip to Montana."
Toquerville Falls, Utah
Off the beaten path in the southwestern desert of Utah, Toquerville Falls—a two-tiered waterfall which cascades down red rocks—is a must-see for those seeking waterfalls and adventure. It is only accessible by a rough dirt road, but a short hike brings avid travelers to the beautiful, rocky cascades. Visitors can cool off in the many pools around the area with stunning views of the mountain skyline.
"You can drive right up to the falls (with a four-wheel drive)," says Tiffany Lin, travel blogger of Follow Tiffs Journey. "This stacked waterfall is a nice little gem to cool off and even cliff jump!"
Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
Just a 30-minute drive from Seattle, the 268-foot Snoqualmie Falls offers visitors epic views from upper and lower observation decks. The waters crash down the equivalent of 10 stories into the Snoqualmie River, which is surrounded by lush Pacific Northwest forests. Snoqualmie Falls is lovely in the rainy season when the forests are at their greenest and the falls are fully flowing.
"It's a very calm and peaceful area with breathtaking views," says Jasmine Cheng, travel blogger of The Wandering Girl. "The surrounding areas have lots of greenery and hiking trails." She's not alone in her assessment. Snoqualmie Falls welcomes 1.5 million visitors each year, making it the state's second-most visited natural landmark, right behind Mount Rainier.
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El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
This tropical paradise is teeming with beautiful waterfalls, which visitors can reach from any of the forest's trails. The location includes the 35-foot La Mina Falls, a picturesque waterfall where you can even swim in the crystal-clear pool below, and La Canoa Falls, home to the El Hippie pool.
"People often don't realize that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, so you can travel there without a passport," says Lindsey Danis of travel blog QueerAdventurers. "The waterfall is a bit out of the way, so it's a locals' spot mostly. You have to hike a bit to get there and you definitely don't want to do it in flip-flops. Your reward is the chance to swim in clear, cold waters; hike on the rocks around the waterfall; and look for petroglyphs."
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Located in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Travelers are stunned by its 620-foot cascade and two-tiered drop, which can be seen from many angles, including a bridge where you can experience the falls up close after a short hike. With more than 2 million visitors, it the "most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest" and requires a timed permit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.
"It is a great spot to visit for both experienced and novice hikers," recommends Chris Watson, CEO of My Adventure Diaries. "The trail is easy to follow and the view of the falls is breathtaking. The area around the falls is also filled with lush greenery and wildlife."
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most iconic waterfalls in the country. The tallest waterfall in the U.S., Yosemite Falls is 2,425-feet tall and a sight to behold, while the fairytale-like Bridalveil Falls is a mere 620 feet. Visitors won't forget witnessing the sheer power of these waters plunging into the valley below, before continuing through the park for more incredible natural sights.
"My favorite waterfalls in the U.S. are at Yosemite National Park," says Eva Keller, a travel consultant at Discovering Hidden Gems. "Vernal Falls is shorter and wider but has a strong water flow. Lower Yosemite Falls' height and the scenic walk to it are the biggest draw. Bridalveil Falls just sprays everywhere, so if you come prepared to get wet it's so much fun."
Waimoku Falls, Hawaii
Hidden within the emerald-green forests of Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii, Waimoku Falls is the ultimate waterfall for explorers. Hike along the Pipiwai Trail, where you'll encounter bamboo groves, refreshing pools, banyan trees, the smaller Makahiku Falls, and the majestic 400-foot Waimoku Falls, which traverses down a rock side amidst tropical greenery.
"The sheer magnitude of the waterfall is awe-inspiring as the water crashes down into a rocky pool," says Anu Agarwal, author at travel website Destination Check-off. "The hike through a dense bamboo forest is the most exciting element of this journey, and the gentle rustling of bamboo leaves and the occasional sunlight filtering through the dense canopy add to the serenity."
Niagara Falls, New York
No list of waterfalls would be complete without the awe-inspiring Niagara Falls. Set along the border of the U.S. and Canada, the waterfall is located in Niagara Falls State Park, the oldest state park in the country. Make sure to pack a poncho as it's nearly impossible to miss the cooling mist on your face while witnessing the falls on a boat trip or walking tour.
"What is collectively referred to as Niagara Falls is actually three distinct waterfalls—Horseshoe Falls, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls," explains Sara Harvey, director of communications, Destination Niagara USA. "Enjoy the scenic beauty of the entire region during a hike along Niagara Gorge Rim Trail. The trail passes through Niagara Falls State Park's Prospect Point and Terrapin Point, which are both excellent vantage points for taking in views of the waterfalls."