Waterfalls have a meditative quality that you can’t quite find anywhere else, and the beauty is difficult to define. After all, the tumbling water isn’t the only attraction – the cliffs, forests, pools and trails around the falls all play a part in the majestic experience. Luckily, the USA has more than its fair share of amazing waterfalls, but these eight are nestled into some of the most pristine – yet accessible – landscape in the country, and are sure to leave you in awe.
Palouse Falls, Washington
Nature lovers flock to Washington’s Palouse Falls State Park in the spring and summer to take in the spectacular Palouse Falls – certainly a contender for the most beautiful waterfall in the region. The water drops from a height of nearly 200 feet, spilling over a rugged outcrop of rock and snaking down the pretty river that cuts through the wild landscape. The surrounding canyons and raw landscape is what makes these falls very special; you may feel like you’ve left the USA and landed on another continent.
Spray Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
This remote waterfall will call for a bit of a trek, but the spectacle of Spray Falls spilling into Lake Superior is not something you will soon forget. A two mile hike along the Lakeshore Trail will bring you in sight of the 70 meter tall waterfall, but since the forest is dense and the cliffs are sheer in both directions, you’ll need to hop in a boat or kayak to get an up-close view from the front. If you come here in the autumn, you can enjoy a brilliant canopy of fiery reds and oranges alongside the beautiful waterfall.
Lower Yellowstone River Falls, Wyoming
Yellowstone Park has a few waterfalls, but the Lower Yellowstone Falls deserve a special mention for their beauty and magnitude. Tumbling 300 feet into a rugged canyon, the Lower Falls is at the top of the list of attractions in Yellowstone, and the best part is that you can catch a glimpse from many scenic lookout points. The layers of immense rocky terrain only highlight the incredible natural beauty and power of the falls themselves.
Alamere Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Crashing waves mirrored by crashing falls: this is the satisfying symmetry that make the four mile trek to Alamere Falls well worth your time. They may not be the biggest or the most dramatic waterfall in the country, but they hug the California coastline, spilling into gullies carved into the beach, which makes the scene fairly unique and impossibly romantic. Kick off your shoes and take a stroll between the ocean and the waterfalls to admire some of California’s charms.
Havasu Falls, Arizona
The legendary Havasu Falls sit amid Arizona’s arid, rocky canyons, which help to create the unforgettable scenery. The bright blue water (colored by calcium carbonate and magnesium) contrasts with the deep red rock, and a trimming of evergreens rounds out the palette. The water falls almost 100 feet to the turquoise pool at the bottom, and there’s a nice sandy beach to enjoy the view.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon
The iconic Multnomah Falls are no secret among hikers and waterfall enthusiasts, but they’re popular for a reason. The jewel in the crown of Oregon’s majestic Colombia River Gorge, this ribbon of cascading water straddled by a concrete arched bridge is simply picture-perfect. The surrounding forest has the requisite peace and cool tranquility, plus there’s a historic lodge that sits at the foot of the cliff to round out the North Pacific scene.
Yosemite Falls, California
Yosemite Park is a massive granite playground, drawing hikers and rock climbers to the steep cliffs and incredible flora and fauna. Tucked into the soaring mountains, Yosemite Falls is an extravagant example of the power of North American seasons. The drop is massive – at 2425 feet tall, these falls are some of the highest in the world – but since the rushing water is fed by melting snow, spring is the time to visit. The sight has inspired a range of writers and artists over the centuries; the hike to the viewing points will follow in the footsteps of American legends.
Niagara Falls, New York
A list of American waterfalls just wouldn’t be complete without Niagara Falls, the natural wonder that brings tourists from all over the globe to see its power in person. It’s big, wide, loud and lively, and whether you take a jet boat ride through the whirlpools at the base or prefer to witness the spectacle from solid ground, the effect will be immense. Canada and the USA share the falls, and each side offers a different view – and a different entertainment experience.
You might be surprised at the number of waterfalls that dot the states – there’s a good chance that you’ll stumbled upon one if you take the time to explore any state park! However, many of the most amazing waterfalls in the country will require at least a bit of a hike, so factor that in when you plan your trip.