With Summer fast approaching, it’s that time of the year to enjoy, gawk, and absorb the mystic beauty, and inspiration often experienced within mere feet of waterfalls.
What makes hiking trails with waterfalls so great is the initial roaring, rumbling sound in the distance, followed by the sight of a powerful yet beautiful, formidable yet awe-inspiring, cascade of white water disappearing into the misty river below. Ah yes, you are right where you want to be – at one with nature.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California has had the second wettest Winter in its 123 years of record-keeping, which means many of the waterfalls and rivers, that would have lost their majestic reputation during years of draught will now be returning an impressive vengeance attracting tourists, visitors, and of course, outdoor enthusiasts.
With rivers returning to beautify nature’s landscape and waterfalls reassuming their powerful role stronger than ever, we’ve asked top hiking and outdoor bloggers to tell us about their favorite waterfall hikes. Get inspired and make sure to check out their great blogs!
McArthur-Burney Falls, Northern California
Even though it is hard to pick, my favorite trail with a waterfall is probably McArthur-Burney State Park in Northern California. It’s only 150 feet from the parking lot to the overlook, but you will want to take the half-mile trail down to the base of the falls as it is so impressive. While California has some truly magnificent waterfalls, there is just something about the sheer power and majesty of McArthur-Burney Falls that keeps me coming back again and again.
Comet Falls, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Although Niagara Falls, Lower Yellowstone Falls and Multnomah Falls are among the largest and most well-known waterfalls I’ve had the chance to see in person, Comet Falls in Mount Rainier National Park is by far the most impressive one I’ve ever hiked to.
What makes this waterfall so remarkable is the volume of water, its towering height, and how close you can get to the base of the falls. In all, Comet Falls plunges a total of 462 feet over the course of four separate drops, with the tallest drop being measured at 301 feet, making it the second highest waterfall in the park. In addition to Comet Falls, hikers will also see numerous cascades, cataracts and waterfalls along Van Trump Creek as it rushes down the steep gorge.
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Roaring Run Falls, Roanoke, Virginia
If you’re looking for a hike that everyone will enjoy you’ve got to check out Roaring Run. Located just outside Roanoke, VA, Roaring Run Recreation Area has something for everyone. The easy, well-marked trail begins at a historic iron ore furnace and winds back and forth along a cascading mountain stream.
You will pass rock walls, small water falls, and cross five footbridges before ending at beautiful Roaring Run Falls. Once you’ve snapped your obligatory selfie in front of the falls, make your way back down the trail and cool off with a slide down the 50 foot natural water slide. The stream is stocked with trout and at higher water levels becomes a Class V whitewater kayak run. There are toilets and picnic area with charcoal grills as well as nearby wineries and breweries so make a day of it.
Apple Orchard Falls – Cornelius Creek Loop, Virginia
The Apple Orchard Falls – Cornelius Creek Loop is a waterfall seeker’s paradise on a rainy spring day. In addition to the impressive 200 foot Apple Orchard Falls, there are many smaller cascades and rapids along the six-mile route.
If there has been recent rain, prepare for a couple fun water crossings. Overall, the terrain of this loop is moderate. In the spring, it’s a great place to enjoy wildflowers in bloom; including trillium, wild geranium, and dutchman’s breeches. You can extend the day-hike loop into a backpacking adventure by connecting to the Appalachian Trail.
Emperor Falls, Mt. Robson Provincial Park – Berg Lake Trail, Canada
An unexpected, fantastic treat is Emperor Falls on the Mt. Robson Provincial Park – Berg Lake Trail in Canadian the Rockies. After dropping over the edge of a cliff the water strikes a ledge about halfway down. Hikers test their courage seeing how far into the spray they dare venture.
Make sure to bring your waterproof jacket!
Punchbowl Falls Hike, Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
My favorite waterfall hike is Punchbowl Falls in the Colombia River Gorge (outside of Portland, OR). The entire gorge area is full of great waterfalls and trails, but Punchbowl Falls is my favorite because of the landscape around it. To get to the falls, you hike along a cliffside, high above Eagle Creek. When you get to the falls, it’s a lush, terraced wonderland with clear pools of mountain water.
Battle Creek Falls, Utah
Our favorite hike in Utah is Battle Creek Falls. This hike is very family friendly. We have taken our three boys here at all ages, even carried them as a newborn. We have also never been disappointed when we visit this waterfall. Spring, Summer, Fall, Wet or Dry year, Battle Creek Falls is always a great waterfall that you can get up close and play in, which is why we love it so much. This is the perfect waterfall hike if you are looking for an easy, fun waterfall in Utah.
Plitvice Waterfalls, Croatia
We’d probably say Plitvice Waterfalls in Croatia would be our “favorite” or at least the first one that comes to our minds. That’s because it’s a trail or boardwalk where we got to see waterfall after waterfall amongst colorful travertine lakes. It’s a world famous attraction and I believe it’s UNESCO. Anyways, you WILL be waterfall saturated after spending a couple of days here.
Maxwell Falls, Evergreen, Colorado
My favorite local waterfall hike is Maxwell Falls in Evergreen, Colorado. I often seek out hikes that are remote and challenging. Maxwell Falls is neither, but it leads to a gorgeous waterfall that has become one of my go-to’s when entertaining family and less advanced hiking friends.
Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park
Waterfalls are awesome hiking destinations and they get extra refreshing on hot summer days. California’s wet winter has made the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park even more mystifying… or mistifying. Granite steps on the Mist Trail take hikers right up to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall for an unforgettable waterfall hike.
Hanging Lake, Colorado
Colorado’s vertical landscapes and annual snowfall make for miles of ribbons, plunges, and cascade waterfalls throughout the state. One waterfall stands out among the others because it is so unusual. Hanging Lake in Dead Horse Canyon, just outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado sports two waterfalls.
Bridal Veil Falls at Hanging Lake spills over moss covered rock into multiple ribbons, dropping into the seafoam turquoise waters of Hanging Lake. The hike to Hanging Lake is 1.2 miles, and the second waterfall, Spouting Rock is less than 200 yards further up the trail. Spouting Rock bursts out from several holes in the limestone walls of the canyon and launches over top of the cliff side, creating multiple horsetail waterfalls.
Because it is so spellbinding and unique, the Hanging Lake Trail receives a high level of traffic, so we recommend arriving very early at the trailhead parking lot and to, of course, practice Leave No Trace hiking practices. For more details, be sure to check out the Trail Guide to Hiking to Hanging Lake from Dayhikes Near Denver.
Bonus Waterfall Hikes
Have you ever stumbled across something in life so good that you just couldn’t decide which was your favorite? Like, ice cream, or music, or TV Shows? Well, clearly you’re not the only ones.
Two of our bloggers couldn’t decide on a favorite waterfall hike, so they did share with us some other interesting hikes worth mentioning. Take a look:
Waterwheel Falls Trail, Yosemite National Park
A good sleeper one is the Waterwheel Falls Trail in Yosemite National Park. That one involves hiking along the Tuolumne River encountering a bunch of waterfalls along the way: Tuolumne Falls, White Cascade, California Falls, LeConte Falls (has waterwheels too), and the namesake Waterwheel Falls, plus some unnamed ones. You could keep going to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River as well if you’re backpacking. My mom and I did this entire trail as a crazy 22-mile out-and-back day trip, and it was definitely our most memorable experience.
Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Another great outing that overflows with waterfalls is the Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park, Oregon. The loop seems to have a new waterfall around every bend. You get to walk behind a few of the waterfalls, which is a lot of fun.
Husedalen Valley, Kinsarvik, Norway
I also like the Husedalen Waterfalls near Kinsarvik, Norway, where there were four major giant waterfalls on the Kinso River leading up to the Hardanger Plateau. This was more of a hiking excursion than Plitvice as it took me around 4-5 hours to finish solo.
Now it’s Your Turn
Well, there you have it, a great list hiking trails with waterfalls for you to do this Summer. The Summer weather’s going to be great, the rivers and landscape are going to be inviting and irresistible – thanks to the heavy snowmelt. If you still are in need of the right footwear for these kind of trails, check out our list of the best shoes for hiking in water or our waterproof hiking shoes recommendations.
Don’t hold back, let us know in the comments what your favorite waterfall hikes are – we’d love to hear from you. And, if you couldn’t decide on where to go for your next hike that includes a waterfall, then hopefully you’ve found the bloggers’ favorites to be great suggestions.
The outdoors, as we know, especially rivers and waterfalls, is a place that breeds creativity, fosters inspiration, and provides healing. It’s a place we can disconnect from the everyday hustle and reconnect with ourselves. So, make good use of it! Go grab your crew, grab your gear, and get out there. Happy hiking!
Also interesting: 10 Spectacular Fall Color Pictures and Hiking Trails Across America