15 Waterfalls So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.
Exploring near-supernatural nature from sea to shining sea
Tagged as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls in southern Africa epitomizes the jaw-dropping beauty and transformative power that waterfalls have over us—and will continue to do so for centuries. And, lucky for you, some of the world’s most awe-inspiring waterfalls exist right here in the United States—just off the beaten path.
From the Instagram-beloved Multnomah Falls in Oregon, to the incomparably majestic Palouse Falls in Washington state, to the one-and-only Niagara Falls in New York (and, technically, Canada), here are the most magical waterfalls in the United States—no fairy dust necessary. And for more magical adventures in your own backyard, check out these 50 Destinations So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.
Multnomah Falls; Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Where to fly: Portland International Airport
Perhaps one of the most captivating destinations in the country, Multnomah Falls is 611 feet of cascading water, surrounded by lush forests and streams. And best of all, it’s located a scant 30 minutes outside of Portland’s city center—so you don’t have to trade urban comfort for a taste of nature. For a view of the falls similar to the one pictured above, you need only drive to the visitors center, park your car, and walk just a few feet to the base of the waterfall. For a closer look, take the paved trail to reach Benson Bridge, which spans the falls at the first tier’s base.
And for more awe-inspiring travel, check out these 17 American Towns So Beautiful You’ll Think You’re in Europe.
Havasu Falls; Grand Canyon, Arizona
Where to fly: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Also referred to as the Havasupai Falls, this magical destination brings visitors from all over the world to witness the beautiful colors of the canyons in contrast with the crystal blue of the falls. Though, be warned before you set out for the hike: this one is a doozy and it’s recommended for experienced hikers only.
Pro tip: For the best views of the park—not to mention some seriously haute dining—book your room at El Tovar Hotel, which is nestled right inside the park.
Palouse Falls; Palouse Falls State Park, Washington
Where to fly: Spokane International Airport
Calling all Ice Age floods fans (or any other fan of natural beauty): Palouse Falls is one of the last active waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path—and also one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest. The park offers three separate ways to experience the falls: either from the lower part of the falls, easily accessible through by the main day-use area adjacent to the parking lot; or the second, at the end of a paved path, for a more secluded canyon view; or you can head to the Fryxell Overlook for panoramic views of the falls and Palouse River Canyon.
Pro tip: For a taste of some of the best cheese in the country, head to Cameo Heights Mansion in Dayton, Washington.
And if you’re traveling to these falls with your kids in tow, check out these 25 Best Ways to Travel with Children.
Ruby Falls; Chattanooga, Tennessee
Where to fly: Knoxville McGhee-Tyson Airport
Located over 1,120 feet below the surface of Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls is the deepest waterfall open to the public in the United States. For a truly magical look at the waterfall, book the Lantern Tour for a dark and intimate time spent underground.
Pro tip: While you’re in Chattanooga, you can’t miss a chance to eat at Champy’s—where fried chicken is more experience than meal.
Akaka Falls; Akaka Falls State Park, Hawaii
Where to fly: Hilo International Airport
Following the ʻAkaka Falls Loop Trail, visitors of the Akaka Falls State Park in Hawaii can view both the Kahuna and ‘Akaka Falls, within just a half mile from each other.
Pro tip: With the motto “Sharing Aloha Since 2000,” you can rest assured that the Palms Cliff House Inn will provide you with an unparalleled Hawaii experience—complete with hula lessons.
And to make your travel worry-free, check out these 20 Ways to Make Travel Less Stressful.
McWay Falls; Big Sur, California
Where to fly: Mineta San Jose International Airport
With only a half mile hike out of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, there should be no excuse for missing the beauty of the McWay Falls—and every other inch of the seducingly magical coastline. For more instructions on this unforgettable hike, be sure to visit the Hiking Big Sur website.
Pro tip: For spectacular views of the coast and California cuisine, stop for a bite at Nepenthe, just up the road from the trail.
Shoshone Falls; Twin Falls, Idaho
Where to fly: Boise Airport
Also known as the Niagara Falls of the West, the Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho, is a truly majestic gem surrounded by deep basalt canyons and rustic waterways. The best time to visit the waterfall is during peak water flow season from April to July.
Pro tip: After your waterfall excursion, book a room at The Fillmore Inn for Tudor-style fixings from the décor to the delectable cuisine.
Yosemite Falls; Yosemite National Park, California
Where to fly: Oakland International Airport
Yosemite National Park is home to one of the world’s tallest waterfalls: Yosemite Falls. To see the waterfall up close, hikers can either venture out on an all-day hike to reach the top or opt to do the simple one-mile loop trail for a view of the base.
Pro tip: Stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge to view the falls from your own private room.
Grand Falls; Navajo Nation, Arizona
Where to fly: Albuquerque International Sunport
The Grand Falls in Arizona is situated on a picturesque portion of the Navajo Nation in the Painted Desert. Since you’re on Navajo land, a hiking permit is required to enter the road that leads to the falls, and once you’re to the falls, it’s only a short half-mile hike to its base.
Pro tip: As is suggested in its name, The View Hotel boasts some of the best, unobstructed views of Monument Valley in all of the Navajo Nation.
Manawaiopuna Falls; Kauai, Hawaii
Where to fly: Lihue Airport
You might recognize these falls from one of the opening scenes of Jurassic Park, and it’s easy to see why the film’s producers chose these falls in particular, as they evoke a special prehistoric beauty rarely found in not just America but also the world. Unfortunately, you’ll only be able to see the Manawaiopuna Falls from a helicopter, since the island is privately owned.
Pro tip: After your helicopter ride, book your room at the Koloa Landing Resort for impressive views and intimate yoga classes.
Ramona Falls; Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon
Where to fly: Portland International Airport
Once called the “eighth wonder of the world,” the Ramona Falls in Mt. Hood National Forest represent the epitome of Pacific Northwest hiking, with cascading waterfalls, expansive trees, and greenery everywhere you look. Though the hiking trail, which winds along the Sandy River, to reach the falls isn’t easy—and is closed from December 1st to April 1st—it’s truly a trek to remember.
Pro tip: Even though your stay may not be during peak snowfall, a trip to the Collins Lake Resort always offers an authentic view of Oregonian life.
Seven Falls; South Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado
Where to fly: Denver International Airport
For a glimpse into Colorado’s unique geological wonder, pay a visit to Seven Falls in South Cheyenne Canyon, just outside of Colorado Springs. To view the falls, climb the 224 stairs up to the top or choose to take it easy on the in-mountain elevator. That’s one way to get your daily steps in!
Pro tip: For an equally unique taste of Colorado, stop by Restuarant 1858 for sustainably sourced meat and local trout.
Calf Creek Falls; Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Where to fly: Salt Lake City International Airport
The Calf Creek Falls are only one enchanting part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, which offers some of the most impressive desert scenery in all of the country. To get to the base of the falls, hikers have to pass through beaver ponds and pre-historic rock art sites en route to the waterfall.
Pro tip: To get the most out of your desert trip, stay at the rustic and chic Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed & Breakfast.
Burney Falls; McArthur–Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California
Where to fly: Los Angeles International Airport
The Burney Falls, surrounded by lush forests and beautiful moss-covered rocks, is truly like stepping into a fairytale. To access this California gem, use the Rim Hiking Trail.
Pro tip: As it turns, a stay at the McLoud River Mercantile Hotel proves that, similar to natural beauty, amazing architecture can make us more grounded.
Niagara Falls; Niagara Falls, New York
Where to fly: Niagara Falls International Airport
There’s no other way to put it: These falls have more than earned their cultural legend status. If you haven’t yet visited, make it a point to do so.
Pro tip: Don’t trip!
And if you’re looking to steer clear of nature and stick to more manmade waterfalls, first check out these 30 Shocking Facts about Water Parks.
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