With hundreds of waterfalls in North America, how do you find the best ones?
Waterfall Hikes that Never Disappoint
Below we’ve listed down what we think are the 10 best waterfall hikes in North America alone. The entries aren’t arranged according to any rank and you’ll find each one is just as beautiful as the rest.
1. HAVASU FALLS
With baby blue waters and orange-colored canyons, the Havasu Falls is an easy entry in this list.
The Havasu Falls is located in the Havasupai Reservation. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water”, a fitting name since the water is said to flow through each member of the tribe which has lived in the Grand Canyon for over 800 years.
To find the falls, you’ll need to hike an easy 8-mile trail to the town of Supai and another 2 miles to get to the falls. You’ll need a 3-day permit which is the only way to visit the falls. While you can visit the falls from February to November, you’ll have to take precautions when visiting during monsoon season (July to August).
2. YOSEMITE FALLS
The Yosemite Falls trail is one of Yosemite’s oldest and most historic trails.
While this hike won’t be the longest by any means (at 7.2 miles roundtrip), it’s still rated “Strenuous” with about 2,700 ft (823 m) of elevation gain. Some climbs bring you above the treeline and will give you a glimpse of what’s to come — Yosemite Falls.
Reaching the end of the steep climb rewards you with close-up views of Upper Yosemite Fall plus distant views of Half Dome and other Sierra mountain peaks.
Note that you’ll need to make reservations to drive into Yosemite through September 30, 2021. Some services and facilities are limited, and shuttles are not operating due to COVID-19.
3. BRIDAL VEIL FALLS
Another beautiful waterfall hike can be found while still in Yosemite.
Bridal Veil Falls is famous for the mist that wafts off it with a strong enough breeze. As you may have already guessed, this mist looks like a bridal veil which is where the falls got its name.
The easy 15 to 30-minute hike has a slight incline which can be slippery due to the over-spray. It’s best to visit the falls in the springtime when the snowmelt roars above the falls. Remember to bring windshield wipers for your spectacles.
4. MULTNOMAH FALLS
If you’re heading to the Pacific Northwest, remember to stop by the most visited natural recreation site in the area: The Multnomah Falls.
The waterfall gets its water from underground springs from Larch Mountain and is at its highest during winter and spring. Over 2 million people visit the falls each year to take in the sights and sounds.
To get to the falls, you can take a 2.4-mile day hike through one of the most popular hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. You take a steep trail from the visitor center and cross the historic Benson Bridge. From here you can continue to the top of the cliff then through a short spur trail until you reach the viewing area at the top of the falls.
5. RAINBOW FALLS
The Rainbow Falls gets its name from the mist the produces a rainbow visible on sunny afternoons. Even during colder months, Rainbow Falls is still a thing of beauty due to the impressive ice formations surrounding the falls.
The 5.4-mile roundtrip hike to view the falls is rated “Moderate” and features about 1500 feet in elevation. Beyond the falls, you can continue your hike approximately 4 miles to reach the summit of Mount Le Conte.
Note that the hike is rated “Difficult” by some hikers because of the elevation and rocky surface of the trail. Also, there are no pets allowed on the trail.
6. BURNEY FALLS
If you’re looking for an easy and short hike to a beautiful waterfall, the Burney Falls Loop Trail is for you. The 129-foot tall Burney Falls has been touted as one of California’s most spectacular waterfalls and draws crowds all year round.
This easy loop trail is only 1.6 kilometers long and is heavily trafficked by hikers. It’s good for all skill levels and is best visited from April to October. This trail is also accessible for horses.
7. PALOUSE FALLS
If you’re looking for a difficult short hike leading to the top of a beautiful waterfall, you can go for the Palouse Falls Trail.
Located in Washington, the hike is a 2.3-kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail that’s not for beginners. The steep, rocky, and technical trail is rated difficult. Bring the right footwear and expect sections of rock scrambling and steep drop-offs.
It’s best to visit this trail from February until October.
8. CUMBERLAND FALLS
Cumberland Falls has been deemed a hiker’s paradise with 17 miles of hiking trails that meander through the park and other scenic areas. If you’re looking to get lost in miles and miles of trails while viewing scening vistas and enjoying the beautiful waterfalls at the end, then Cumberland Falls is perfect for you.
With so many trails to choose from, you can enjoy Cumberland Falls no matter what hiking skill level you are at. You don’t pay anything to visit the falls and hike through its trails. You can visit any time, although you may want to avoid the crowds during the warmer months.
9. SNOQUALMIE FALLS
If you’re looking for a magnificent waterfall to take your family to, Snoqualmie Falls is a great choice. The 2.3-kilometer trail is located in Washington and is suitable for all skill levels. You can bring your dog but it’s required to be on a leash. The trail is heavily trafficked by hikers from May until October.
Upper and lower viewpoints give you a great look at the Falls. While the hike to the bottom of the Snoqualmie Falls is easy, some hikers found it steep going back up.
10. SHOSHONE FALLS PARK
The Shoshone Falls Observation Deck Trail is another waterfall hike for all skill levels and their dogs (leashed or not). The short, easy, 1-kilometer trail is located in Kimberly, Idaho, and is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching.
The trail is paved and goes from the parking lot up to the high, western, observation deck. It also features easy access to restrooms, informational signs, and picnic areas.