There’s something about America’s most beautiful waterfalls that makes them worth the chase, whether a road trip to a new destination or an overnight hike in one of country’s magnificent national parks. From stunning chutes of water jutting from tropical cliffs to gentle tumbles down the side of a glacier, here are 15 of the most beautiful waterfalls in the USA that should definitely make your bucket list.
At FlipKey, we’re here to help with the first step of any adventure: where to stay! Imagine coming home to your cozy cabin after a scenic day hike of the falls—lounging on the outdoor patio with a drink in hand, reflecting on the beauty you just witnessed. A vacation rental provides extra living space, a full kitchen, and amenities like laundry or even a hot tub. No matter which of these falls you want to explore, you’ll find the perfect home base.
Waimoku Falls | Maui, Hawaii
Waimoku Falls in Haleakala National Park Kipahulu is more about the journey than the destination. The scenic 1.8-mile Pipiwai Trail leads you through towering bamboo forests and past series of waterfalls in a pristine tropical rain forest before dropping you near the base of the 400-foot tall Waimoku cascade. However, due to safety concerns, you have to keep a distance from the water. This trail is known for being well-maintained and not too difficult, with an intermediate incline slowly leading up to the falls.
McWay Falls | Big Sur, California
An 80-foot plummet straight into the Pacific Ocean, McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a must while in the Big Sur area. Visit as a quick pit stop off Highway 1, taking the short and easy hike to the falls, or opt for one of the longer linked hiking trails for rewarding views of the California coast and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the USA.
Silver Falls State Park | Sublimity, Oregon
Quality and quantity collide at Silver Falls State Park in Sublimity, Oregon, where the 7.2-mile long Trail of Ten Falls takes you past 10 amazing waterfalls in a row. The trail may be most famous for South Falls, a tall cascade whose unique position allows you to walk directly behind the waterfall for a look at the side less seen. Tack the trip onto your Portland itinerary by joining a guided day trip to Silver Falls from Portland.
Niagara Falls | New York
The king of America’s most beautiful waterfalls, visiting Niagara Falls is a surefire bucket-list experience. Three magnificent falls, two American and one Canadian, mark the point at which the Niagara River rumbles over the Niagara Escarpment. Reviewers claim that the scenic attraction is “Heaven on Earth…Everyone should visit the fall at least once in their lifetime. Words cannot describe the feeling or the euphoria of being there.”
Wailua Falls | Lihue, Hawaii
Leave your boots behind for a trip to Wailua Falls, a frothy cascade just steps from a main road. You might recognize these famous waterfalls from their appearance in the opening credits of the hit TV show “Fantasy Island” or promotional materials for Kauai, as they are largely recognized as some of the most amazing waterfalls on the island. Though there aren’t any surrounding hiking trails, the falls’ beauty make them worth a quick pit stop. Or, make a day of it by visiting as part of a Hawaii movie tour or private Kauai sightseeing tour.
Akaka Falls Park | Hilo, Hawaii
Take an easy half-mile hike down a paved trail to see Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls emerge from Hawaii’s lush tropical landscape. Walk past wild orchids and drooping banana trees en route to the falls, stopping to admire the sights from multiple viewing platforms along the way. A Big Island waterfall tour makes it easy to see Akaka Falls and other amazing waterfalls in a single day.
Bridalveil Fall | Yosemite, California
From Ansel Adams to Instagram, Bridalveil Fall is one of the most iconic views in Yosemite National Park. This famous waterfall tumbles 620-feet down to the base, with enough water in the spring and early summertime to mist its visitors and a delicate yellow glow in the winter. Though the waterfall is not wheelchair accessible, it is only a 10-minute walk down a paved path from the main visitor parking lot. Visit as part of a larger trip to Yosemite from San Francisco or Los Angeles to make the most of your time in California.
Nugget Falls | Juneau, Alaska
Nugget Falls is all about location, with its position at the tail end of Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier helping it make the cut as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the USA. The falls are formed from a glacial creek and make their way into Mendenhall Lake over the course of a 2-tiered drop. Though accessible on there own via a graveled path, they are often visited as part of a Juneau shore excursion or Mendenhall Lake tour.
Virginia Falls | Glacier National Park, Montana
Hike past three waterfalls in three miles on a trip to Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park. A moderate trail passes by Baring Falls and St. Mary Falls before culminating at Virginia Falls, widely considered one of the best waterfalls in all of Glacier National Park for its turquoise waters and crystal pools perfect for dipping your feet in.
Whitewater Falls | Sapphire, North Carolina
At 811-feet tall, Whitewater Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Eastern United States, with beauty to boot. The multi-tiered falls break over a series of jutting rocks, all clearly visible from two observation decks. Take a short hike down a paved walkway to the upper overlook, or head down the 154-step staircase to reach the lower observation area, considered by many to have better views.
Multnomah Falls | Bridal Veil, Oregon
A 20th-century stone bridge strung between two cliffs offers the best views of Multnomah Falls, one of the most famous waterfalls in all of Oregon. Stand on the bridge to admire views of the 542-foot tall upper tier and 69-foot tall lower tier from a single vantage point, providing a contrast that puts the falls’ sheer size into perspective. See the falls on their own, or combine with a trip to the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. The falls make an ideal Portland day trip when combined with other Columbia River Gorge attractions.
Bushkill Falls | Bushkill, Pennsylvania
Bushkill Falls is not just one waterfall, but a series of eight equally impressive cascades in Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains. Get up close to all eight falls as you hike down a network of trails ranging from easy to difficult, or admire views from the park’s miniature golf course or paddle boats as you cruise across Twin Lakes. The amicably nicknamed “Niagara of Pennsylvania” is open seasonally from March through November.
Union Falls | Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The little-known Union Falls is a gem of Yellowstone National Park—and getting there might feel like a treasure hunt. Those willing to make the 8-mile hike each way through rugged terrain will be rewarded with a view of one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the USA, likely without another soul in sight. Plan to spend the night at one of the backcountry camping areas along the way or start out early and prepared for a full day of hiking.
Though the park is in Wyoming, it’s suggested that West Yellowstone, Montana, is the place to stay for best exploration.
Mesa Falls | Ashton, Idaho
A 115-foot cascade billows over the remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption at Mesa Falls in Ashton, Idaho. The Lower Falls can be seen from a drive-up parking area with a lookout point, but the real show is at the Upper Falls, accessible by a short paved path from the visitors center. Mesa Falls is yet undiscovered by most area visitors, making for a more tranquil viewing experience.
Calf Creek Falls | Escalante, Utah
Escape the desert heat on a hike to Calf Creek Falls, located in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Though there are an upper and lower portion of the falls, the lower is by far the favorite, with a relatively flat six-mile out-and-back hike, a taller cascade, and more scenic views along the way. Pack a picnic and swimsuit for a perfect summer day.
This post was originally published on the TripAdvisor blog. FlipKey is a TripAdvisor company.