8 Most Popular Waterfall Hikes in the U.S.

Amelia ArvesenJanuary 30, 2024

8 Most Popular Waterfall Hikes in the U.S.

A hike without a view is like cookies without chocolate chips. Not as fun. But when the view is a waterfall, that’s like doubling the chocolate chips the recipe calls for. Double the fun. As you’re planning your next outdoor outing, consider adding these 8 best waterfall hikes to your list.

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When is the best season to hike to waterfalls?

The best season for waterfalls can vary depending on the region, climate, and specific characteristics of each waterfall. Before going, research the waterfalls on your list. Weather conditions, recent rainfall, and other factors can also influence the appearance and flow. Always check local conditions and trail information before visiting.

That said, when it comes to seasons, here are some general guidelines:


In many areas, spring is often considered the best season for waterfalls. This is because melting snow and increased rainfall lead to higher water levels in rivers and streams. The combination of these factors can create more dramatic and powerful waterfall displays. 

Early Summer

In regions where spring is followed by a dry period, early summer can still be a good time to see waterfalls, as the snowmelt continues to contribute to the flow. However, as the season progresses, some waterfalls may experience reduced flow due to decreased precipitation.

Late Fall

In some areas, late fall can be a good time to visit waterfalls, especially after the leaves have fallen from trees. This can provide clearer views of the falls and the surrounding landscape. However, water levels may be lower during this time, depending on local precipitation patterns.


Some waterfalls maintain a consistent flow throughout the year, especially in tropical or temperate climates with consistent rainfall. These waterfalls can be enjoyed at any time, but it’s essential to research specific locations to determine their seasonal patterns. Meanwhile, other waterfalls either run dry, slow to a trickle, or they freeze into the most beautiful natural ice sculptures.

Most Popular Waterfall Hikes in the U.S. 

Bridge over one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the U.S.

1. Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Right off the highway in the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is a two-tiered white ribbon unfurled over the mossy canyon walls. You can catch a glimpse of it from the road, but we recommend pulling over for the 2.4-mile out-and-back hike. The climb is steep but well-worn. Spring and summer are its busy season, so try going early during the weekdays. 

2. Yosemite Falls Trail, California

Yosemite National Park is home to many beautiful waterfalls, but among the best waterfall hikes is along the Yosemite Falls Trail, which leads you to North America’s tallest cascade. Catch a view from the Columbia Rock outlook, which is 2 miles round trip. Or go all the way to the top on the strenuous 7.2-mile round trip full hike. You really can’t go wrong on either of these routes.

And when you take this hike, be sure to park your RV or stay in one of our cabins at Outdoorsy Yosemite – our very own campground right on Bass Lake.

3. Grotto Falls, Tennessee

Tucked within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, trekking to Grotto Falls is a unique experience because the Trillium Gap Trail takes you behind the 25-foot waterfall. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 moderate miles, according to the National Park Service, through old-growth hemlock forest and a cool, moist, salamander-laden environment.

4. Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado

With Colorado’s high snowfall, you can bet that the state is peppered with waterfalls. In Telluride, Bridal Veil Falls is Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall at 365 feet at the end of a box canyon. You can see it from a scenic drive, but you can only feel the mist on the 2-mile out-and-back hike. About three-quarters of the way to the base is a swimming hole—an added bonus to one of the best waterfall hikes in the U.S.

5. Waimoku Falls, Hawaii

On the 4-mile round trip Pipiwai Trail in Haleakalā National Park, you wander through bamboo forests and along the Ohe’o Gulch Stream to the gigantic Waimoku Falls on the island of Maui. You’ll cross a combination of well-maintained bridges, boardwalks, and dirt paths. This trail also leads to the 185-foot Makahiku Falls, which you spot first along the hike. A two-for-one!

6. Cascade Falls, Virginia

Located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Cascade Falls offers a beautiful, relatively short hike with a rewarding waterfall at the end. 

Cascade Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the U.S.

7. McKinney Falls, Texas

Texas may not be renowned as a water-wealthy state, but it still has a trickle or two to offer. When it comes to the best hikes with waterfalls, McKinney Falls State Park in Austin is home to Upper and Lower McKinney Falls, formed by Onion Creek. Various trails around the falls showcase different views of the falls, which shoot over blocky limestone ledges that serve as a swimming and sunning beach. 

8. Falling Waters Falls, Florida

The centerpiece of Falling Waters State Park is a mysterious waterfall, the tallest in Florida, that drops into a 100-foot-deep, 20-foot-wide cylindrical pit. It flows into a small stream 73 feet below to the bottom of the sink, but the water’s final destination is unknown. The 1.6-mile round trip Sinkhole Trail, with some paved sections, takes you to the falls, and there are lots of other trails to be discovered around this gem ranked one of the best waterfall hikes.

9. Ouray Box Cañon Falls, Colorado

We couldn’t forget to include at least one waterfall that’s arguably one of the best in the world in winter. When the temps plummet, Ouray’s Box Cañon Falls freezes into an 85-foot icicle shooting through a very narrow quartzite gorge. The road closes, but you can park and walk. Just be careful as the terrain gets slippery! Every year in January, the park turns into a bustling ice climbing festival, attracting climbers and mountaineers from all over the world.

Feeling inspired to chase cascades? Book a basecamp with Outdoorsy and plan a road trip to one—or all—of these scenic waterfalls for a thirst-quenching experience when you’re in the mood to be among the fishes.

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Amelia Arvesen, Outdoorsy Author

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