The most beautiful waterfalls in America



Slide 1 of 31: It doesn’t matter how many different waterfalls we gaze upon: there’s something so dramatically beautiful about cascading water, whether it thunders down in broad sheets, crashes from a great height or follows a languid path along gradually descending steps. We hike to them, stare up (or down) at them and pore over photos of them. From those tucked in unlikely spots by the roadside to world-famous waterfalls like Niagara Falls, here are some of the most spectacular in the US.
Slide 2 of 31: Around half an hour from Portland, Oregon’s tallest waterfall is a step above typical roadside attractions. Quite a few steps, actually, as the vertiginous waterfall flows from a neck-craning 611 feet (186m). Its setting is picture-perfect, too: the falls are flanked by basalt cliffs sprouting maple trees, and spanned by the stone arches of Benson Bridge, built in 1914.
Slide 3 of 31: A 115 foot (35m) curtain billows over the remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption at Upper Mesa Falls before thundering a mile downriver to Lower Mesa Falls. The higher waterfall is perhaps the most dramatic, but both these natural beauties, near the city of Ashton, are a sight to behold. The setting is striking, too, with Snake River (as wiggly as it sounds) flowing over and through solidified lava and ash.
Slide 4 of 31: The so-called ‘Niagara of the South’ is pretty nice to look at any day of the year. It’s lovely, in fact, with a 125 foot (38m) sheet of water that crashes into a boulder-scattered gorge. But, like werewolves, it really comes into its own on a full moon. This is one of few places in the world where you can see a ‘moonbow’ or lunar rainbow, which shimmers across the cascade as the moon’s light is reflected in the mist.

Slide 5 of 31: It’s hard to know where to look in Big Sur, arguably the most spectacular bit of California’s ridiculously beautiful coastline. It’s almost embarrassingly gorgeous, from the pine and redwood-clad cliffs to the creamy beaches and the Pacific Ocean, which ranges from navy to dappled teal and turquoise. So the only way a mere waterfall could stand out here, really, is to be on the beach. McWay Falls pours 80 feet (24m) from the bluffs at Julia Pfeiffer State Park, emptying onto the honey-hued sand.
Slide 6 of 31: These two waterfalls cascade along the Tahquamenon River in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, near Lake Superior. They aren’t pristine, picture-perfect falls, and that’s exactly why they’re so lovely. Each has a certain rustic charm, tucked within dense, undeveloped woodland. The Upper Falls, which flows in a broad, caramel-colored curtain, is the most dramatic, while the Lower Falls trickles in five smaller cascades.
Slide 7 of 31: Many have admired this dramatic group of cascades, surrounded by mossy volcanic rock and overhung by thick ferns. President Theodore Roosevelt went so far as to proclaim the northern California falls, fed by underground springs and snowmelt, to be the eighth wonder of the world. That has never become official, though it’s hard to argue that they are anything short of spectacular, seeming to boom and thunder out of nowhere from their verdant, tree-topped ledge, tumbling into an icy-blue pool.
Slide 8 of 31: It’s best to eat before visiting this 181-foot (55m) tall waterfall, or perhaps take a snack with you. Otherwise, you might be tempted to dive right in, perhaps with a mug in hand. It’s nicknamed Chocolate Falls due to the water’s unusual (and rather appetizing) milky brown hue. It won’t actually taste like cocoa or chocolate milk, though, as the brown color is due to sediment. This chocolate fountain of a falls flows within the Painted Desert in Navajo Nation, just outside Flagstaff.
Slide 9 of 31: The continental USA’s tallest waterfall is one of the most boldly beautiful sights in Yosemite National Park – which is saying something. Plummeting for a total of 2,425 feet (739m), the three sections of Yosemite Falls cascade through a beguiling landscape of pine-covered granite cliffs and meadows. Upper Yosemite Fall is the tallest of the three and also one of the world’s highest waterfalls, flowing from a head-spinning 1,430 feet (436m) above ground.

Slide 10 of 31: Like watery wedding cakes, falls with multiple tiers can be particularly pretty – and make a big statement. St. Mary Falls in Montana’s Glacier National Park is one of those, with three levels zigzagging over the red-tinged rock of the gorge and emptying into a striking, aquamarine pool. Nearby Virginia Falls is taller and noisier, though we think St. Mary’s many levels give it the edge. Love this? Now check out America's most unspoiled places.
Slide 11 of 31: How can you make a sheer, 145-foot (44m) high waterfall even more dramatic? Send it plummeting into a cave. This underground waterfall plunges through a vertical shaft inside Lookout Mountain, fed by a subterranean stream. Part of the Lookout Mountain Caverns complex in Chattanooga, the waterfall was discovered accidentally in 1928 by Leo Lambert, who named it after his wife, Ruby. They’re illuminated by LED lights for extra drama.
Slide 12 of 31: Rainbows often frolic in the mist that shimmers around Ramona Falls, casting extra loveliness on the already ethereally beautiful landscape. In any light and weather, the waterfall is incredible: a soft veil of water that drapes like silk over rocks clothed in velvety emerald moss. The waterfall is tucked deep within Mt. Hood National Forest and flows for 120 feet (37m) over columns of basalt rocks.
Slide 13 of 31: This series of (you guessed it) seven waterfalls drop a total of 181 feet (55m) from top to bottom, but it’s the journey that’s truly spectacular to see. They weave and wind, collide and crash through the pale apricot rock of South Cheyenne Canyon in Colorado Springs. A series of vertiginous stairways, interrupted by lookout points, follows their path, with the top platform gazing across prairies, meadows and rock formations.
Slide 14 of 31: Deciding on the most beautiful part of Yellowstone National Park is no easy feat. In fact, it's pretty impossible, we reckon. But Yellowstone Falls holds its own even in the company of such famous, photogenic lookers as the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s actually made up of three connected falls that flow into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, passing by gray and apricot cliffs studded with pine trees.

Slide 15 of 31: It’s the lush emerald backdrop that really makes this waterfall on Hawaii’s Big Island such an awesome sight. 'Akaka Falls pours like silk against a thick tangle of rainforest with bamboo, banana trees and ferns, emptying into a round gorge. Akaka Falls State Park is also home to the smaller Kahuna Falls – though with a cascade of 100 feet (30m), it’s dwarfed by its 442-foot (135m) neighbor.
Slide 16 of 31: Niagara Falls isn’t the biggest or the tallest waterfall in the world, or even the US, but it's among the most famous – largely thanks to the dramatic confluence of its three broad, thunderous cascades. Located near Buffalo in New York state, and splashing across the border into Canada, it’s made up of Horseshoe Falls (the biggest), American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Its distinctive green-blue hue, caused by a mix of rock flour and mineral salts, also contributes to its global fame.
Slide 17 of 31: Elakala resides in a park named for a different waterfall, Blackwater. While both are lovely (and Blackwater Falls is actually taller), the staggered, gunmetal-gray steps of Elakala Falls are more unusual, with an almost sculptural beauty. The water that flows through both has a distinctive amber hue, tinted by tannic acid from hemlock and red spruce needles.
Slide 18 of 31: It seems like every other waterfall tries to be known as ‘the Niagara of the (insert region here)’ – but Shoshone Falls stands up to the comparison. Known as ‘the Niagara of the West’, the Twin Falls attraction packs a similar visual (and audible) punch, with numerous cascades thundering together over a gaping canyon and emptying into the pea-green water of Snake River. And, at 212 feet (65m), it’s actually 36 feet (11m) taller than its East Coast cousin.
Slide 19 of 31: Just looking up at Waimoku Falls, in Maui’s Haleakalā National Park, is enough to make you dizzy. The lofty waterfall is a head-spinning 400 feet (122m) tall, diving down a sheer lava rock face into a limpid, boulder-scattered pool. The steep cascade is the climax of the popular Pīpīwai Trail, which weaves though bamboo forest and past streams and another waterfall, the relatively short 185 foot (56m) Makahiku Falls. Read on to discover more of America's stunning natural wonders.
Slide 20 of 31: Bridal Veil Falls crashes down the tree-carpeted walls of Keystone Canyon a little outside of the city of Valdez. The city’s nickname is the Land of Waterfalls, with dozens of cascades fed by snow melt and, in winter, the flow freezes leaving a thick, milky-white trail of ice. That means Bridal Veil Falls is popular with daring ice climbers and lovers of a good wintry landscape.
Slide 21 of 31: Whitewater Falls is the loftiest cascade east of the Rocky Mountains at 411 feet (125m), which is enough to put it among the most spectacular. But really its beauty lies in the way it meanders, flows and rushes over several tiers of jutting rocks. It’s flanked by steep, tree-carpeted slopes in the heart of mountainous Nantahala National Forest, in the southwest of the state. Across the state line, in South Carolina, the Lower Whitewater Falls cascades for another 400 feet (122m).
Slide 22 of 31: The ‘Niagara of Pennsylvania’ tagline does somewhat raise expectations but, while it doesn’t quite have the same drama as the more famous falls, this Pennsylvania attraction has a beguiling beauty of its own. Bushkill Falls, in the Poconos Mountains, is actually a series of eight waterfalls with a total drop of 300 feet (91m), and it’s the diversity of the landscape – as the cascade pours over steep rock faces and swirls lazily under wooden bridges – that makes it stand out.
Slide 23 of 31: It’s not the height that gives Great Falls, close to Washington DC, its dramatic beauty. In fact, each of the cascades drops no more than a mere 20 feet (5m) or so, with a 76 foot (23m) total height over just under a mile. It’s the speed and volume at which the water crashes down the Potomac River, tumbling over jagged rocks and rushing into rapids, that makes it such a spectacular sight.
Slide 24 of 31: Potato River Falls sounds like it might be more at home in Idaho, the state better known for its spuds. It also doesn’t sound like it would be particularly attractive or elegant. But it is both of those things, and stands out with its quiet, unassuming beauty. It also feels like a lovely secret to be stumbled across. The series of cascades, which plunge a total of 90 feet (27m) along the Potato River in Gurney, are framed by thick forest.
Slide 25 of 31: This broad beauty, tucked in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula, flows silkily over a series of smooth rocky ledges along the Ontonagon River. They’re not the tallest, dropping a total of just 50 feet (15m). But, around double that in width, surrounded by pine forest and tumbling seemingly for miles, the falls are an arresting sight nonetheless.
Slide 26 of 31: The Beehive State is better known for dramatic rock formations than liquid attractions, yet it’s quietly home to one of the country’s most unusual waterfalls. Calf Creek, found off the hoodoo-lined Scenic Byway 12, has two falls – upper and lower. The whole thing is lovely to look at but it’s the lower falls, which cascades 126 feet (38m) down mineral-streaked sandstone and unfurls into an emerald-hued swimming hole, that really steals the show.
Slide 27 of 31: Snoqualmie Falls is just off the busy I-90 interstate and its tremendous roar is loud enough to drown out any traffic noise. Named for a Salish word meaning ‘moon’, the waterfall is considered a spiritual place and has drawn people to gawp and gaze at its 268-foot (82m) cascade for centuries. The Washington State attraction, close to Seattle, also had a starring role in cult TV series Twin Peaks.
Slide 28 of 31: Brandywine Falls sounds delicious and, while it isn’t actually an endless, ruby-red flow of wine (or a caramel-hued flow of brandy), it is quite lovely to look at. Nestled within sprawling, densely forested Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it cascades for 60 feet (18m). Drier months reveal a bridal veil pattern on the rocks, while the falls freeze eerily in mid-flow during winter.
Slide 29 of 31: The Finger Lakes region is famous for wine and, erm, lakes. It also does a pretty good line in waterfalls, especially those in Watkins Glen State Park. There are 19 falls in total, dropping a total of 400 feet (122m), with a trail running alongside and, in some parts, above. We reckon Rainbow Falls is the most jaw-dropping, named after the way the afternoon sunshine infuses the shimmering sheet of water with color. The cascades often freeze in winter, transforming into snow-white sculptures.
Slide 30 of 31: This Grand Canyon waterfall would probably make the list if it was gray and beige – but the eye-popping combination of colors renders it even more incredible. The orange-pink of the rock becomes more vivid next to the aquamarine of the water that pools below it, and vice versa. It’s one of five waterfalls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, whose residents are known as ‘people of the blue green water’.
Slide 31 of 31: From certain angles the Palouse Falls, in southeastern Washington, seems to spout from the craggy rocks as if from a giant concealed tap. The water actually comes from the Palouse River, which flows through a narrow gap before plunging nearly 200 feet (61m) into a gorge below. The cascade was formed by floods during the Ice Age, and was named the state’s official waterfall in 2014. Now see more photos of the most colorful attractions on Earth

Chasing waterfalls

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Mesa Falls, Idaho

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

McWay Falls, California

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

Burney Falls, California

Grand Falls, Arizona

It’s best to eat before visiting this 181-foot (55m) tall waterfall, or perhaps take a snack with you. Otherwise, you might be tempted to dive right in, perhaps with a mug in hand. It’s nicknamed Chocolate Falls due to the water’s unusual (and rather appetizing) milky brown hue. It won’t actually taste like cocoa or chocolate milk, though, as the brown color is due to sediment. This chocolate fountain of a falls flows within the Painted Desert in Navajo Nation, just outside Flagstaff.

Yosemite Falls, California

St. Mary Falls, Montana

Like watery wedding cakes, falls with multiple tiers can be particularly pretty – and make a big statement. St. Mary Falls in Montana’s Glacier National Park is one of those, with three levels zigzagging over the red-tinged rock of the gorge and emptying into a striking, aquamarine pool. Nearby Virginia Falls is taller and noisier, though we think St. Mary’s many levels give it the edge. Love this? Now check out America’s most unspoiled places.

Ruby Falls, Tennessee

Ramona Falls, Oregon

Seven Falls, Colorado

Yellowstone Falls, Wyoming

Deciding on the most beautiful part of Yellowstone National Park is no easy feat. In fact, it’s pretty impossible, we reckon. But Yellowstone Falls holds its own even in the company of such famous, photogenic lookers as the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s actually made up of three connected falls that flow into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, passing by gray and apricot cliffs studded with pine trees.

‘Akaka Falls, Hawaii

Niagara Falls, New York

Elakala Falls, West Virginia

Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Waimoku Falls, Hawaii

Just looking up at Waimoku Falls, in Maui’s Haleakalā National Park, is enough to make you dizzy. The lofty waterfall is a head-spinning 400 feet (122m) tall, diving down a sheer lava rock face into a limpid, boulder-scattered pool. The steep cascade is the climax of the popular Pīpīwai Trail, which weaves though bamboo forest and past streams and another waterfall, the relatively short 185 foot (56m) Makahiku Falls. Read on to discover more of America’s stunning natural wonders.

Bridal Veil Falls, Alaska

Whitewater Falls, North Carolina

Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania

The ‘Niagara of Pennsylvania’ tagline does somewhat raise expectations but, while it doesn’t quite have the same drama as the more famous falls, this Pennsylvania attraction has a beguiling beauty of its own. Bushkill Falls, in the Poconos Mountains, is actually a series of eight waterfalls with a total drop of 300 feet (91m), and it’s the diversity of the landscape – as the cascade pours over steep rock faces and swirls lazily under wooden bridges – that makes it stand out.

Great Falls, Virginia

It’s not the height that gives Great Falls, close to Washington DC, its dramatic beauty. In fact, each of the cascades drops no more than a mere 20 feet (5m) or so, with a 76 foot (23m) total height over just under a mile. It’s the speed and volume at which the water crashes down the Potomac River, tumbling over jagged rocks and rushing into rapids, that makes it such a spectacular sight.

Potato River Falls, Wisconsin

Bond Falls, Michigan

Lower Calf Creek Falls, Utah

Snoqualmie Falls, Washington

Snoqualmie Falls is just off the busy I-90 interstate and its tremendous roar is loud enough to drown out any traffic noise. Named for a Salish word meaning ‘moon’, the waterfall is considered a spiritual place and has drawn people to gawp and gaze at its 268-foot (82m) cascade for centuries. The Washington State attraction, close to Seattle, also had a starring role in cult TV series Twin Peaks.

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

Brandywine Falls sounds delicious and, while it isn’t actually an endless, ruby-red flow of wine (or a caramel-hued flow of brandy), it is quite lovely to look at. Nestled within sprawling, densely forested Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it cascades for 60 feet (18m). Drier months reveal a bridal veil pattern on the rocks, while the falls freeze eerily in mid-flow during winter.

Rainbow Falls, New York

Havasu Falls, Arizona

This Grand Canyon waterfall would probably make the list if it was gray and beige – but the eye-popping combination of colors renders it even more incredible. The orange-pink of the rock becomes more vivid next to the aquamarine of the water that pools below it, and vice versa. It’s one of five waterfalls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, whose residents are known as ‘people of the blue green water’.

Palouse Falls, Washington

From certain angles the Palouse Falls, in southeastern Washington, seems to spout from the craggy rocks as if from a giant concealed tap. The water actually comes from the Palouse River, which flows through a narrow gap before plunging nearly 200 feet (61m) into a gorge below. The cascade was formed by floods during the Ice Age, and was named the state’s official waterfall in 2014.

Now see more photos of the most colorful attractions on Earth

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