13 Waterfalls You Need in Your Life: No Passport Required
If there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, then there should be a waterfall at the end of every hike. Why? Well, along with the chance to take in a majestic natural landscape, the rush of all that water may give your brain a biochemical boost.
According to the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences, the negative ions released by waterfalls "increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.” So, keep your passport at home and come along as we chase 13 of the most beautiful, happiness-inducing waterfalls in the U.S.
1. Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village, California
One of the world’s tallest waterfalls, this wonder impresses even within a national park known for its natural beauty. It’s composed of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall, the middle cascades and Lower Yosemite Fall.
How to see it: The falls are visible from Yosemite Valley, but can also be accessed up-close via a six-to eight-hour roundtrip hiking trail. Reserved for more experienced adventurers, the difficult hike covers 7.2 miles and gains 2,700 feet of elevation -- but those who do choose to take this route are rewarded with stunning views from the top of the waterfall.
Travelzoo Tip: Peak flow is in May, so visitors during this time have the best chance of catching the falls in action.
2. Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil, Oregon
Undeniably one of the most famous waterfalls in the U.S., Multnomah Falls embodies the best the Pacific Northwest. Running between two large green mountains and underneath the Benson walking bridge, the picturesque location seems straight out of a storybook -- and tailor made for an Instagram snapshot.
How to see it: The Multnomah Falls designated viewing area is easily accessible from the road, and is supplemented by a visitors center and the Multnomah Falls Lodge. Guests who come prepared to brave the weather can hike along the 1.2-mile trail to the top of the falls, including crossing over Benson Bridge. Though it’s a relatively short route, it comprising of many switchbacks and difficult (read: often muddy) terrain.
Travelzoo Tip: Triple down on your waterfall viewing by also checking out Latourell Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, two less touristy and thus less crowded nearby landmarks. Bridal Veil Falls is just 3.6 miles from Multnomah, and Latourell Falls is another 2.3 miles from there -- all under a 15-minute drive from each other in total.
3. Havasupai Falls, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Waterfalls don’t get much beautiful than Havasupai Falls, located in the Arizona region of the Grand Canyon. The juxtaposition of the red rock formations and the vibrant teal water makes this a popular destination for hikers, tourists, and virtually anyone who can appreciate a stunning slice of natural beauty. The falls are named for the Havasupai people, native to the Grand Canyon.
How to see it: Unlike many others on this list, Havasupai Falls is unfortunately not accessible from the road. It’s a 10-mile hike to the falls, and visitors have two options: either make a reservation independently, or buy into a guided tour.
Travelzoo Tip: Reservations are often booked out months in advance, so your best bet to check out the falls may be through one of the tour companies that have consistent access.
4. Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park, California
This 317-foot fall is on the Merced River and runs yearlong, though is weakest at the end of summer and most spectacular during spring. As its situated within Yosemite National Park, the fall is surrounded by a host of other natural sites ripe for visiting before/ after you visit Vernal.
How to see it: Vernal Fall is is accessible via a 3-mile roundtrip hike along the historic Mist Trail, Yosemite’s signature hike. Visitors often note that the trail itself is almost as breathtaking as the falls. The trail includes a series of stairs -- especially to the top of Vernal -- and is strenuous.
Travelzoo Tip: You’ll likely get wet from the waterfall mist -- though how dry you stay often depends on how close you get to (or how far you stay from) the stream. If you’re not into the idea of getting wet you may want to wear some waterproof clothing.
5. Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho
At one end of Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls draw a natural comparison to Niagara (often called the Niagara of the West) -- and are, in fact, even higher. The falls are wide and composed of a variety of individual falls. The natural beauty is magnified by the backdrop of blue skies and majestic mountains.
How to see it: Accessible via car, Shoshone Falls is ideal for families, or those who aren’t interested in hiking. The full visitor space features recreational areas including playgrounds, hiking trails, grassy areas, boat ramps, a swimming area and scenic overlook.
Travelzoo Tip: Bring a picnic to enjoy on one of the lawns that offer views of the Shoshone Falls.
6. Alamere Falls, Bolinas, California
Located along the Point Reyes National Seashore within Marin County, Alamere Falls is a tidefall -- meaning it runs directly into the ocean. Breathtakingly beautiful, the falls are accessible year-round, but are at their best after winter and spring rainfall.
How to see it: After parking at the Palomarin trailhead, you’ll hike along the Crest Trail to Wildcat Camp, then south down to the beach. The full trip to Alamere Falls is a 13-mile roundtrip hike, so many visitors opt to make it a weekend and stay at Wildcat Camp overnight. Though the trail is long, it offers stunning views of the ocean, lakes and vegetation.
Travelzoo Tip: If you’re visiting during warm months, take a dip in the nearby Bass Lake.
7. Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Uniquely tucked underground within a cave, America's deepest commercial cave and largest underground waterfall are a popular tourist attraction in Tennessee.
How to see it: The Ruby Falls attraction area offers tours of the cave and falls, and features an additional range of activities for tourists of all ages like a ZIPstream Aerial Adventure park and Fun Forest Playground.
Travelzoo Tip: For the brave, Ruby Falls offers lantern tours on Friday nights, where small tours are led to the falls guided by a lantern-lit path.
8. Triple Falls, Cascade Locks, Oregon
Aptly named, Triple Falls features what appears to be three separate streams, all of which flow from and to the Oneonta Creek. Surrounded by lush greenery along the Columbia River Gorge, it’s a breathtaking hike-in waterfall known for its serenity and natural setting.
How to see it: The falls are accessible via a 5-mile out-and-back section of the Oneonta Trail. Hikers traverse switchbacks and can check out other falls, including the Middle Oneonta Falls, along the way. The hike is rated at a moderate difficulty, but does include a section of rocky scrambles to reach the falls itself.
Travelzoo Tip: Be aware that the trail does have some steep dropoffs.
9. Palouse Falls, Lacrosse, Washington
The star of the Palouse Falls State Park, the iconic waterfall serves as a centerpiece for the park’s trails, attractions and activities. The falls has two sections -- upper and lower -- and lies on the Palouse River.
How to see it: The Palouse Falls State Park offers a variety of trails with views of the waterfall, all of which are easy to moderately rated and dog (leashed) and child-friendly.
Travelzoo tip: The park also offers 105 acres of camping, featuring 11 tent spaces -- so make it an overnight trip!
10. Arethusa Falls, Hart’s Location, New Hampshire
Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Arethusa Falls is most noteworthy because of the way the water cascades over the layers of natural granite.
How to see it: The waterfall is accessible via the Arethusa Falls Trail, a 2.6-mile round-trip hike from a well-marked parking lot off the main road. The trail leads to the base of the falls.
Travelzoo Tip: From the parking lot, visitors can also embark on the trail toward Bemis Brook, which features the Fawn Pool, Coliseum Falls and Bemis Brook Falls.
11. Manawaiopuna Falls, Hanapepe, Kauai
Best known for its appearance in Jurassic Park, this waterfall is often nicknamed “Jurassic Falls.” The falls are privately owned, and thus are only accessible via helicopter tours… not that we’re complaining about the view from the top.
How to see it: The helicopter adventures offer visitors a chance to both check out the sights from the air, as well as to land at the base of the falls and explore the 400-foot waters firsthand.
Travelzoo tip: The helicopter tours aren't cheap, but rave customer reviews prove that the journey -- aka a helicopter ride over Kauai -- is just as memorable as the destination.
12. Sliding Rock, Pisgah Forest, North Carolina
Sliding Rock is one of the most unique (and fun) waterfalls in the world -- and, lucky for us, it’s located right here in North Carolina. A natural water slide on which visitors can slide down and into a plunge pool at the bottom, the family-friendly landmark offers an interactive adventure that will make you feel like Tarzan.
How to see it: Located in the Pisgah Forest, Sliding Rock is outside of Brevard. The fall is located within its own recreation area, which includes parking, restrooms and changing rooms.
Travelzoo Tip: If you’re traveling with children, your safest bet is to visit during summer weekends, when there is often a lifeguard on duty. Though children below a certain height must slide on an adult’s lap, the gentle incline makes this a fun and safe activity for the little ones.
13. Seven Falls, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Photo: Flickr/Caitee Smith
Aptly named, Seven Falls consists of seven cascading waterfalls in South Cheyenne Cañon: Bridal Veil, Feather, Hill, Hull, Ramona, Shorty and Weimer. The area around Seven Falls was reopened last year after renovations that helped the falls recover from flooding and transform into a tourist destination. The reopened space features free parking, the Broadmoor Hotel, a fine dining restaurant and a zip line.
How to see it: A series for 224 steps runs alongside the stream, and offer visitors of all ages a safe way to see the landmark up close and reach the lookouts along the trail and at the top of the falls. For those not able or feeling up for the many steps, an in-mountain elevator brings guests to the “Eagles Nest” viewing platform, 185 steps up.
Travelzoo tip: For those wishing to hike even farther -- and to see some of the best views of Colorado Springs available -- trails to Inspiration Point and to Midnight Falls begin at the top of Seven Falls.