Alaska's Bridal Veil Falls is usually frozen in winter
Shoshone Falls, in Idaho, is 36 feet taller than Niagara Falls
Visitors can climb and explore Wisconsin's Potato River Falls
You’re likely to sweat a little to get to some of the best waterfalls. But they deliver a cool refuge and a powerful reminder of nature’s force.
Waterfalls splash through national parks and preserves and are tucked away in state parks known only to nearby residents. Waterfall lovers will travel thousands of miles and hike or bike to see these prime examples of nature in action.
1. Havasu Falls: Grand Canyon, Arizona
Those who brave the Arizona heat to visit Havasu Falls are rewarded with refreshing natural swimming pools. Year-round water temperatures stay near a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The falls are at the bottom of Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green waters,” and the name doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the aquamarine pools at the base of the falls.
The village and falls are only accessible by hiking or horseback. It’s a 10-mile trip from the trailhead to the falls, which are about two miles beyond Supai Village. Hiking conditions are excellent in the earlier spring and later fall, with moderate temperatures.
2. Triple Falls: Western Gorge, Oregon
High in the Multnomah Falls area of the Columbia River Gorge in Western Gorge, Oregon, is the aptly named Triple Falls. The Oneonta Creek that runs through the gorge splits into three channels, which make their way around rock formations before they take the 64-foot plunge over the ledge.
A moderately steep 5-mile round trip hiking trail takes visitors to an overlook above the segmented waterfall, but hikers rarely venture to the base. There are 10 other waterfalls within a few miles, but take the time to see Triple Falls. It’s one of most beautiful falls in the gorge because of its unusual, segmented pattern.
3. Waimoku Falls: Maui, Hawaii
Off the famous Hana Highway, nestled into the Kipahulu District of Maui’s Haleakala National Park is the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. The falls are on the Pipiwai Trail, which gains 800 feet in elevation along the 4-mile round trip hike.
On the way to Waimoku, hikers will pass the 185-foot Makahiku Falls and through a thick bamboo forest. Flowing down a steep lava-rock wall, covered by moss and vegetation, Waimoku Falls and the pool below are visible and accessible from a rocky hill above.
Swimming is possible in the Kipahula District, but the pool under Waimoku Falls is not deep enough and falling rocks are a risk. There are much better-suited pools along the way. Check with the visitor center before you start your hike for current conditions.
4. Blackwater Falls: Davis, West Virginia
You can see the waterfall from numerous spots within the park, watching the amber-colored river plunge down and twist through the 8-mile long gorge.
The tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles is responsible for the tinted water that gives the spot its name. The falls are open year-round, with a beautiful array of wildflowers, panoramic views and a winter sled run.
5. Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Idaho
Known as the Niagara of the West, the height of Idaho’s Shoshone Falls is 212 feet, 36 feet taller than Niagara Falls.
At their most powerful, the falls extend across the entire 900-foot-wide canyon, spilling into the Snake River below. Depending on the volume of water, the falls can take the form of a few trickling streams or a solid wall of water. Spring and early summer are the best times to see the falls at full force.
Nearby recreation areas offer an abundance of water sports, such as canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding on the Snake River.
6. Bridal Veil Falls: Valdez, Alaska
A frozen waterfall? In winter, that’s what you’ll find when you visit Bridal Veil Falls, about 15 miles outside Valdez, Alaska.
For hikers who don’t want to cross a glacier to get to the falls, the 2-mile Valdez Goat Trail has a great vantage point of the falls about a mile into the hike.