The splendor of waterfalls is a reason to travel. Whether tall and dramatic, short and broad, or a collection of falls in one panorama, waterfalls are like watching rivers flow vertically. They’re also perfect reminders that our planet creates its own beauty at which we mere spectators can only marvel.
Across the US, there are countless waterfalls to gush over, all of them changing natural flow rate by season. Some are tucked away in state parks or mountain ranges; others are readily spotted from paths, bridges and roadways. But count on waterfalls, large or small, to inspire moments of awe and even flashes of euphoria thanks to the extra oxygen they produce. Check out these 10 especially gorgeous US waterfalls worth the trip for 2022.
1. Niagara Falls, New York
Falls height: 167ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 30 minutes from Buffalo
Not just one but three waterfalls create the magnificence that is North America’s largest falls, Niagara: Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. They straddle the US and Canadian border formed by the Niagara River, and no matter your vantage point, they are wondrous. From the Canadian side, it’s easy to view all three sections of Niagara Falls from the street-level promenade and ride an elevator down to the Journey Behind the Falls. On the American side, join a Maid of the Mist boat tour to the foot of Horseshoe Falls, head up the Observation Tower or get up close (and wet) along the Cave of the Winds descending walkway.
Expert tip: Tour tickets come with a plastic poncho and sandals, but it’s wise to bring a waterproof bag.
2. Snoqualmie Falls, Washington
Falls height: 482ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 40 minutes from Seattle
It’s a rare delight to have such easy access from a big city to a fantastic waterfall, and Snoqualmie Falls is well worth the half-day trip. (You may also recognize it from its famous turn in the series Twin Peaks). Pass through forests and charming towns on your drive up, and stroll the accessible path to the upper observation deck overlooking the nearly fifty-stories-high falls. There’s a gift shop on-site with local crafts and treats, outdoor picnic tables and the nearby Salish Lodge & Spa for scenic dining. (Some may argue that mighty Palouse Falls is Washington State’s best waterfall, but it can’t beat Snoqualmie’s Cascade-Mountain location.)
Expert tip: Bring good shoes to hike a steep nature trail to the falls’ lower observation area (less than a mile one way).
3. Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Falls height: 620ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 30 minutes east of Portland
Oregon’s tallest waterfall is also one of the state’s top attractions, and rightfully so. Multnomah Falls is a slim, two-tiered cascade with an accessible viewing bridge right in the middle (you can even see the falls passing by from the road below). Better still, it’s just a short drive from downtown Portland and is open all year, fed by snowmelt and Larch Mountain rain. Located on the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls also is home to a nationally registered historic lodge with public facilities, making it a prime break spot for hiking 700 feet up to the top of the falls.
Expert tip: Aim to visit on a weekday morning before the weekend and afternoon crowds descend.
4. Shoshone Falls, Idaho
Falls height: 212ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 25 minutes from Magic Valley Regional Airport (in Twin Falls); 2 hours from Boise
Proudly stout at 900 feet wide, Shoshone Falls is sometimes called the “Niagara Falls of the West.” But in some ways, Shoshone is even more mesmerizing with its tiers and jagged cliff face, particularly during spring’s peak flow. Take in the best views from the overlook to see the falls plunge into the Snake River, and make time to explore nearby Centennial Waterfront Park, where you can rent a kayak to paddle back for a lower view of Shoshone Falls.
Expert tip: Avoid early fall visits when Shoshone’s flow appears nearly dry.
5. Yosemite Falls, California
Falls height: 2425ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 2.5 hours from Fresno; 3.5 hours from Sacramento
One of the tallest waterfalls on the planet is part of what draws millions of visitors annually to Yosemite National Park. The towering Yosemite Falls is comprised of the Upper Falls, middle cascades and Lower Falls, and are among the 25 total waterfalls inside the park. It’s an easy one-mile paved walk to the lower viewpoint, while the bigger challenge is hiking 7.2 miles up 2700 feet for a lofty view from the Upper Falls.
Expert tip: Pack layers of clothing since temperatures can fluctuate through the day here.
6. Grand Falls, Arizona
Falls height: 185ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: less than 1 hour from Flagstaff
It’s taller than Niagara Falls and located in a desert, making Grand Falls a uniquely intriguing natural attraction. Head there from Flagstaff, east of the Grand Canyon on Navajo Nation land (though no permit is needed to drive in on the gravel road). Also dubbed Chocolate Falls for its muddy cascade, Grand Falls has many tiers with heavy flows during the early spring months; any other month of the year may risk viewing only its dramatic cliffs rather than rushing waterfalls.
Expert tip: Map your route in advance since smartphone map apps can lead you astray.
7. Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado
Falls height: 365ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 15 minutes east of Telluride
Free-falling Bridal Veil Falls is one of the largest and most famous waterfalls in Colorado. It’s a quick drive from Telluride, inviting hundreds of daily visitors to trek the nearly four-mile round-trip trail up about 1000 feet in elevation. The stunning, two-pronged waterfall is on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks partly to the 1907 hydroelectric power plant whose structure sits sturdily at the precipice.
Expert tip: Hike during weekday mornings, and be sure to clean up after your dog.
8. Wailua Falls, Hawaii
Falls height: 173ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 15 minutes from Lihue Airport
Tucked into a small, verdant canyon is Wailua Falls, one of Hawaii’s most luscious sights. After big rainstorms, its two flowing falls can merge into one wide waterfall, seen easily from the main parking lot. For a bottom-up view, there is a steep, muddy trail down from the lot, with the bonus of swimming at the falls’ pool. Zip easily to Wailua from Kauaʻi's Lihue Airport, and double your Kauai waterfall viewing with a 20-minute cruise up to ʻOpaekaʻa Falls inside Wailua River State Park.
Expert tip: Come in the morning for the best shot at spotting rainbows against the mist.
9. Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan
Falls height: 48ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 1.5 hours northwest of Chippewa County International Airport
The state park anchored by Tahquamenon (“tuh-KWAHM’-in-uhn” ) Falls is Michigan’s largest, with more than 46,000 acres. Naturally, the falls are the star of the show, stretching 200 feet across and rivaling only Niagara Falls for spring waterfall runoff volume in the Eastern US (50,000 gallons per second). Tannins from upriver cedar and hemlock swamps color Tahquamenon Falls a rusty brown shade, earning it the nickname Root Beer Falls.
Expert tip: Head here in autumn for picture-perfect fall-foliage scenery around the cascade.
10. Dry Falls, North Carolina
Falls height: 65ft
The fastest way to get to the falls: 2 hours from Greenville, South Carolina
Located in southwestern North Carolina, Dry Falls also is called Upper Cullasaja Falls since it’s part of a larger waterfall flow along the Cullasaja River. It’s a marvelous sight that flows over an overhanging bluff, inviting visitors to walk behind the falls (on a protected path) while keeping mostly dry – hence the name. Dry Falls has prime viewpoints from many accessible angles, plus it’s along the lovely Mountain Waters Scenic Byway through Nantahala National Forest.
Expert tip: Winter turns Dry Falls icy and brings closures of its behind-the-falls path, though other observation areas stay open.
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