When you consider waterfall hikes, you don’t always have to get set and fly to an exotic country to experience the majestic beauty of falling water. In fact, there are some breathtaking waterfalls that you find here in the US itself. Amazed at the natural beauty of these waterfalls, you will find yourself soothed with a newfound attachment to nature. Sights of waterfalls usually work to soothe the senses, finding yourself nestled in the beautiful scenery and soft sounds of the woodlands.
Hiking through nature has its own charm. It often requires a level of physical exertion and is even better when combined with a camping trip. The difficulty of each hike various, and we will give you a rough guide of how difficult each trail is, so you have a bearing as to the level of fitness each trail requires. Most of the falls as mentioned within this list can be reached by foot in half-day or less. Hence based on the waterfall you choose to see, the trail difficulty will vary. However, when you do reach the falls, the majestic sight and breathtaking view often make the work exerted worth the while. Further to this, if you love being in nature, a hike regardless of how long or difficult it may be would be a fun and rewarding experience.
Before you do hike to these waterfalls, it is best to check the conditions and acquire any permits that would be required. Preparation is key and it is important to have with you all the necessary hiking gear and of course, plenty of drinking water. These hiking trails often become very hot during the summer months, hence it is important to stay hydrated throughout the hike.
Hence without further adieu, let’s get to the list of some of the most amazing waterfall trails in the US.
15 Amazing Waterfall Hiking Trails in the USA
When it comes to waterfalls, they are known to have a healing effect on us. Swimming in the pools of waterfalls can have a relaxing effect on our bodies; simply appreciating their spectacular beauty can help calm our minds. If you’ve been in the search of a great hiking excursion in the US itself, then look no further, our list of 15 amazing waterfall hiking trails in the USA will definitely provide you with a definitive pick on a worthwhile and amazing hiking experience.
These uniquely captivating waterfalls are magnificent in their own right. The trails vary in difficulty and length, hence when you do consider which hiking trail works best for you, understand the level of difficulty as mentioned within the post and decide for yourself if you are up to the task of hiking to these amazing falls. When you arrive at the falls after a long or somewhat long hike, you earn the view, which is what makes the whole trip worth it. In fact, earning the view will leave you feeling more satisfied; the harder the trial, the greater the reward.
Hence let’s dive into the various waterfall hiking trails in the USA, which will not only challenge you but reward you with an experience that will surely be memorable. Remember, pack your swimsuits, you are going to want to take a dip after a long hike.
1. Cumberland Falls Trail, Kentucky
This 69-foot high, 125-foot wide beautiful waterfall in southeastern Kentucky is a popular choice between hikers with various levels of experience. This is because the hike to Cumberland Falls can be both difficult and easy, depending on the trail that you opt for.
Known as the Little Niagara, Cumberland Falls gets this name due to the fact that it resembles a smaller version of Niagara Falls. You can experience something spectacular at Cumberland Falls, the moonbows. Moonbows are like rainbows, however, they occur during the night. The phenomenon is brought about by the refraction of light from the moon and is clearly visible on a full moon night, or a few nights before and after a full moon.
The waterfall is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and the Moonbow Trail offers an in-depth level of nature exploration and hiking. The Moonbow Trail is nearly 11-miles in length, hence is considered higher on the difficulty scale. This is a hard trail to complete, however leads you through the forest to the surreal view of the Cumberland Falls. If you are after a bit of a challenge and an enjoyable hike through the woods, we do recommend this trail. However, if you are in search of an easier trail, the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park maintains an easy 1-mile round trip trail to the waterfall, which is perfect for the novice hiker.
Regardless of which trail you opt for, you are sure to have a delightful time, hiking through the trees in the forest and dipping in the beautiful waters of Cumberland Falls.
For more information, you can visit the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park website.
2. Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail, Hawaii
There as so many waterfalls in Hawaii which makes it a worthy contender for the title of best waterfalls in the US. From the Akaka Falls to the hidden waterfalls in the tropical forests of Maui, Hawaii is a great destination if you want to witness some amazing waterfalls. However, not all these waterfalls have hiking trails.
The Hanakapi’as Falls trail commences in Kauai as part of the Kalalau Trail which requires advance booking. The trail is located in the steep cliffs of the Na Pali coast and follows a 2-mile trek to the coast of Hanakapi’ai beach. From the beach, it is another 2-mile hike through the beautiful valley to the 300-foot Hanakapi’ai Falls.
At a moderate level of difficulty, you will find yourself hiking through mango trees on muddy terrain and witness some beautiful streams along the way. The 300-foot water settles at the bottom in a pool which is ideal for swimming. Not only is swimming safe in these waters, but it is also highly recommended. Hence be sure to carry your swimwear with you. After a long hike to the waterfalls, it is in fact a treat to the senses to have a cooling dip in the pristine waters of Hanakapi’ai Falls.
3. Kaaterskill Falls, New York State
Located in the Catskill Mountains, this 260-foot waterfall is a beautiful two-tiered waterfall with a stunning and clear pool which makes it ideal for swimming. It is surrounded by a verdant valley, which is why it is known as an American Eden.
The trail commences at a viewpoint of the waterfalls off Laurel House Road and makes a steep descent to the pool of the waterfall at the base. The trail is a 1.5-mile round trip, which makes it one of the easier trails to hike on this list. However, the steep descent does require some physical exertion and you have to ensure that you are wearing proper hiking boots to prevent yourself from slipping or falling.
This trail is perfect for beginner to moderate level hikers and offers you the chance to experience an amazing hike to the pool at the base which is great for swimming. There used to be a trail that began at the base of the waterfall, however, it closed temporarily in 2020 for safety improvements (The Classic Kaaterskill Falls Trail).
4. Trail of Ten Falls, Oregon
Located in Silver Falls State Park outside Salem, the trail gets its name from the 10 different waterfalls that can be witnessed on this trail. If you photograph nature, then this trail could be an absolute treat for you. You have the chance to witness not one, not two, but ten beautiful waterfalls on the 7-mile loop hike.
On the trail, you would be able to catch these beautiful waterfalls from the bottom, above or behind. The South Fall which is a 177-foot beautiful cascade of water is probably the most noteworthy waterfall from among the 10. The trail is of moderate to hard difficulty, considering how much you would be covering on the hike. You will be nestled among the canopy of Douglas firs and will have plenty of chances to catch beautiful waterfalls on this trail.
As mentioned prior, for those looking to photograph nature, this hike would be an absolute treat considering how much there is to witness on one hike.
5. Rainbow Falls Trail, Tennessee
Located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the region. The distinct name of the waterfalls is derived from the beautiful arm of colours that are observed on sunny afternoons.
The trail starts as part of the Roaring Fork Moton Nature Trail and branches off towards Rainbow Falls. The trail is a 5.4-mile round-trip hike, which could take you about half a day to complete. Considered a more moderate to hard trail on the scale of difficulty, the terrain is rocky with a steep incline. However, the sights that you will experience on this trail makes up for the level of difficulty. You will witness beautiful mountain laurel and soothing streams to reach the top where the beautiful Rainbow Falls await.
If you prefer taking this hike further, you can even continue on for another 4-miles to the top of Mount Le Conte. Considered on the more scenic trails on this list, the Rainbow Falls trail is sure to not disappoint you.
6. Snoqualmie Falls Trail, Washington
This 270-foot waterfall packs a great deal of power and noise and is an ideal location for whitewater rafting. You will find the Salish Lodge and Spa at the top of the falls, which makes the falls easily accessible through the lodge.
However, to get a better view of these majestic falls, you would have to follow a 0.5-mile trail through the fern forest to a small meadow where you will find the lower observation deck. Considering the length of the trail, this is probably one of the easier hikes. The trail is well suited to novice hikers.
Strolling through the forest definitely has its perks. You will find the hike to be easy, beautiful and rewarding, which is why this trail is so appealing.
7. Flume Gorge, New Hampshire
Located in Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire, the Flume Gorge is found amidst the beautifully green, White Mountains.
This narrow chasm rises as high as 90 feet from the base of Mount Liberty. There is a walkway which is designed to give you a beautiful view of the waterfalls. The boardwalk provides an opportunity to get up close to the beautiful gushes. You will witness some beautiful streams and pools and have the chance to glance at the 500-foot-long natural water slide called Table Rock.
The hike carries you through a 2-mile loop that goes one way through the gorge. The hike is undertaken on wooden steps, covered bridges and the boardwalk which lets you get really close to the cascading falls.
You also have a chance to catch the 45-foot Avalanche Falls, which was formed in 1883 during a storm.
8. Hanging Lake Trail, Colorado
The Hanging Lake is 71 acres of cliffside turquoise water settled at the base of the beautiful fringe cascades. Found in the Colorado Rocky Mountain town of Glenwood Springs, the area is thriving with unique natural phenomena from underground caverns to hot water springs.
The falls are witnessed from a boardwalk, however, the hike involved in getting to the boardwalk is 1.2-miles. You require a paid permit to partake in this hike. Considering the length of the hike, it isn’t too difficult on the difficulty scale and is great for beginner hikers, who will undoubtedly be rewarded by the beautiful turquoise waters of Hanging Lake.
The hike starts at Glenwood Canyon in the White River National Forest. You have the chance to catch another waterfall on this trail by taking a detour that takes you to Spouting Rock.
The ecology of the lake is fragile as a result of which, you aren’t allowed to swim here. However, you would be able to see the fish swimming in its beautiful, clear waters.
9. DeSoto Falls Trail, Georgia
This tiered beautiful run of water stretches more than 300-feet and runs through mossy rocks in a forest filled with deciduous and pine trees. Originally named after the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, he passed through Cherokee and Creek land during his pointless search for gold in 1540.
The real treasure is the breathtaking waters of the trail which originates at DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in rural Lumpkin County. You will catch the trout-filled Frogtown Creek and hike through some beautiful woodlands. The trail is 2-miles long, which makes it well suited for novice hikers who are looking to exert and challenge themselves.
This trail will surely reward you with the pleasant sights of the falls, coupled with the peaceful tromp through the forest.
10. Mist Trail, California
The trail originates at Happy Isles on the eastern end of Yosemite Valley. Located in Yosemite National Park, this trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park.
You will climb uphill along the Merced River, hiking to reach the base of Vernal Fall. The falls are a 317-foot beautiful awe of nature. You will be hiking 600 steps of slipper stone to reach the top of the waterfall, all the while being sprayed by the mist of the waterfalls, which is where the trail gets its name. You have the chance to turn back from the top of Vernal Falls or trek on further. If you are a novice hiker, it is best to turn back from here.
Otherwise, you could hike on to complete the 7-mile trail which treks through rocky terrain to the top of the thunderous Nevada Fall at a height of 594-feet. The hike is most definitely worth it when you consider the spectacular views of the peaks covered in pines and obviously the various pools of the waterfall.
You do require a reservation to visit Yosemite Valley, hence it is important to make the necessary arrangements if you do consider partaking in this hike.
11. Bond Falls, Michigan
Located in the upper peninsula of Michigan, the Bond Falls is a beautiful, scenic cascade, tumbling through fractured rocks. Rather unexpected considered the largely empty landscape of the area, this waterfall is certainly a treat to the senses.
Nestled in the woods of Michigan, you can view the waterfall from a boardwalk which has six different lookout points. The top of the falls is a great place for a picnic. The hiking trail is a 0.9-mile loop located near Bruce Crossing in Michigan and is ideal for hikers of all skill level.
The best time to visit the falls and go on this trail is from March to November.
12. Havasu Falls, Arizona
Hidden within the winding corridors of the Grand Canyon, the Havasu Falls is a beautiful oasis located in the Havasupai Native American Reservation.
You have to plan ahead in order to get your hands on reservations to visit the site. Though tricky to get the reservations for your trip, it would be well worth it. The trail is 10 miles long and can be physically exerting though easy to navigate. You will trek through the beautiful orange canyon and make your way to Supai, a town located 8 miles along this trail. It is another 2-mile hike from this town to Havasu Falls.
Considering the length of the trail on this hike, it is better suited to moderate and seasoned hikers, who would enjoy the challenge of exerting themselves physically on this hike.
13. Ruby Falls, Tennessee
This underground waterfall had to make this list. This spectacular awe of nature is a beautiful cascade, found underground in the caves of the region.
The 145-foot falls tumbles through a limestone cave inside Lookout Mountain. If are looking to explore a cave on your hike to the falls, then this has to be the pick for you. You can learn about the amazing rock formations while you are there. The hike is only 0.2 miles, which makes it probably the most rewarding hike for those looking to experience a beautiful waterfall, but not overtly challenge themselves.
The tickets to the falls can be quite expensive, hence you should keep this in mind when you are visiting.
14. Falling Spring Falls, Virginia
This remarkable cascade falls over a rock about 80-feet to the valley beneath. Considered one of the most visited and most photographed spots in the Alleghany Highlands, this scenic waterfall is located in Alleghany County, just five miles north of Covington, Virginia.
The hike is really short at 0.1 miles. You can walk briefly along the path to the viewing area from which you can see a side of the waterfall. It used to be a great spot to cool off, however, a sign now warns people about accessing the property. You can enjoy a nice picnic here; the largest waterfalls in Virginia. The hike being as short as it is, is well suited for those who are looking for a small walk to the waterfall, with the least amount of effort.
15. Alamere Falls, California
This amazing oceanside waterfall is the perfect ending to our list. The falls are found at the end of the day hike from San Francisco to Point Reyes.
The hike is 8.4 miles, which makes it one of the more commanding hikes on this list. Technically considered a tidefall, the freshwater from the falls cascade 40-feet from the sea cliff to the Pacific Ocean beneath. You have a chance to take a soothing dip in the sea or even consider stopping at Bass Lake on your way back; also great for a dip and swim.
This is a popular destination for many visitors and can be crowded at certain times of the year. You should be very careful of coastal erosion and be very mindful when getting close to the cliff edges.
Plenty to Hike, Plenty to See
When you consider the hikes on this list, it is obvious that there is plenty to see and experience on these hikes. With a good mix of both easy and hard hikes, you will find something for everyone on this list. Whether you are looking to view a waterfall with the least amount of work, or physically exert yourself on a tough hike to reap the rewards of a beautiful waterfall, there is something here for you.
We hope you find our list of 15 amazing waterfall hiking trails in the USA useful and that you have a bearing as to where you would like to visit for your next hike.