It seems that waterfalls tend to get overlooked for destination trips and vacations. And while we love man-made theme parks and campgrounds, there’s something to be said for taking in the natural beauty of waterfalls. Some of these waterfalls are ones that we know and love, but others are some you may have never heard of.
There are all different shapes, sizes and heights of waterfalls. Some offer hiking, biking and walking trails, while others are only view-able from a boat or plane. The next time you sit down to plan a family vacation or quick weekend getaway, consider researching some waterfalls that are near you. They offer views you can’t get anywhere else and you won’t be disappointed with any waterfall you choose to call your destination. Here’s a list of our favs to get you started!
Latourell Falls, Oregon– Latourell Waterfalls is a unique waterfall that sits in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Since the waterfall is only a few hundred yards away from the road and parking lot, it’s a great last minute destination that doesn’t require all those hiking essentials. The view you’ll get from the parking isn’t the best, comparatively. If you stay on the short hiking trail, you can explore once you get to the waterfalls. You can even wander behind the fall and get right beside it, too. Either way, you WILL get drenched.
Miners Falls, Michigan– To get the full treatment here, you can’t be afraid to get wet! The hike to Miners Falls Waterfalls is 1.2 miles, which may seem long, but it’s a simple hike, so no hard climbing here. To get the biggest bang for your buck, (even though it’s free) follow a trail that veers off from the second platform and goes down to the base of the falls. The hike is, of course, steep and wet, so good hiking shoes are probably a necessity. Once you’re there, enjoy the view while taking a dip at the swimming hole at the bottom. Though the platforms have awesome views, your journey down to the bottom of the waterfall will definitely be worth the trip.
Minnehaha Falls, Minnesota– With it being just five minutes away from Minneapolis, how could you not visit this park? Once you’ve arrived, you can explore behind the waterfall in the cave that’s hidden by the cascade. If this isn’t enough, the park also offers trails for hiking, running and even snowshoeing! The water falls at its strongest during June, which is when most picnickers go, but the site is also amazing during the winter, when it turns into a frozen water tower. Named after an Indian princess, Minnehaha Falls is an all-in-one destination that includes activities for all, including concerts, festivals and outdoor movies. Though the view of the waterfall is impressive, it’s the atmosphere that most travelers come here for.
Ruby Falls, Tennessee- Though the height of this waterfall isn’t as unbelievable as some on the list, it’s still a breathtaking view and has been loved by visitors for over 80 years. Ruby Falls stands at 145 feet and is located in a cavern in Lookout Mountain. You’ll enter the cavern by elevator and then you’ll be lead by workers along a paved pathway to the falls, seeing all the natural formations along the way. After you see the waterfall, view the city of Chattanooga and the Tennessee Valley from the Lookout Mountain Tower. It’s all about the stunning views at Ruby Falls!
Palouse Falls, Washington– Just a few years ago, in 2014, a group of fifth-graders convinced the governor to name Palouse Falls the official State Waterfall. A short walk from the parking lot will get you to this overlook with signs and fences to keep you from the large cliffs of Palouse Falls. For the best photos though, you’ll have to hike a few hundred yards to get the awesome views of the actual falls and the valley. Take an afternoon family trip here and use the picnic tables and shelter. Feel like staying longer? There are 11 campsites for those who can handle the howling of coyotes throughout the night!
Sliding Rock, North Carolina– A waterfall that you can ride on? Count us in! Slip and slide down the 60-foot long Sliding Rock in North Carolina all the way down into the large pool that gathers at the bottom. Close to 11,000 gallons of water per minute power the natural side while onlookers watch from two observation platforms. The park is incredibly popular, so you may be told to visit other nearby areas and come back later. And for a mere fee of $3, it’s definitely worth the patience!
Papalaua Falls, Hawaii- This waterfall is often stated as being 1,201 feet but the topographic maps indicate it being just over 500m. Either way, it’s probably still one of the tallest waterfalls in the state of Hawaii. Despite this characteristic, quite a bit of controversy and misinformation is associated with the waterfall because it sits on the shore of Moloka’i. Some Hawaiians believe there’s an evil water spirit of the stream: a huge man-eating lizard (mo’o). They believe the spirit still lives in the lower pool of Papalaua Falls and that he attacks innocent swimmers.
Ribbon Falls, California– This waterfall doesn’t have constantly moving water throughout the year, but during its best-flowing months of March-May, (sometimes June) Ribbon Falls is about 1,612 feet tall, which is a rather stunning height! It’s dry in the summer and freezes during the winter, so plan your waterfall expedition accordingly! This hike is also not for beginners, because it’s a 4.8 hike and pretty demanding. It’s well worth the hike, though, as you’ll pass several mini waterfalls along the way. Keep going just another .2 miles and you’ll reach Blake Lake and another waterfall, Blake Lake Falls.
Olo’upena Falls, Hawaii– Another one of the amazingly tall waterfalls on the north shore of Molokai, Olo’upena Falls is actually not accessible by trail or foot. You can only see the waterfall by air or sea because it’s so remote and completely surrounded by mountains. The best time to catch a glimpse of this untouchable waterfall is during its rainy season, November through March. Don’t worry, though. Tons of guided aerial and boat tours are available so you can see the views of the falls that dive directly into the sea.
Niagara Falls, New York This wouldn’t be a collection of best waterfalls if Niagara Falls didn’t fall (pardon the pun) somewhere on the list! The established waterfall quite frankly surpasses most of its kind in the country in terms of power, size and more. Is it massive? Yes. Is it a popular tourist destination? You bet. Because of its popularity, though, some rather impressive and stunning waterfalls tend to get put on the back burner. Find some smaller, little known waterfalls in the United States and you might be surprised with what you find.