The 12 Best US Hiking Trails with Waterfalls

hiking to waterfalls, Mooney Falls in Arizona

Grant Ordelheide / Aurora Photos / Getty Images

Did you know that there are more than 17,000 documented waterfalls in the U.S? Some are massive in size and scope, while others are mere trickles of water tumbling down a rocky cliff face. No matter how large or small they might be. However, they all hold an undeniable appeal, often providing a sense of serenity and solitude in nature.

Many of the most scenic waterfalls in the country are located along equally spectacular hiking trails. These trekking routes allow travelers to explore unique outdoor settings while discovering what it is like to stand at the base of one of these cascading torrents of water. It is an experience that can be awe-inspiring, humbling, and invigorating all at the same time.

If you want to experience this feeling, lace up your boots, grab your backpack, and hit the trail. This is our list of the best U.S. hiking trails with waterfalls.

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Yosemite Falls Trail, California

Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park

With more than 25 waterfalls found inside Yosemite National Park, it is hard to choose just one that stands out. But at 2,425 feet in height, the legendary Yosemite Falls is hard to top. As the fifth largest waterfall in the world, it makes for a spectacular sight and one that can easily be reached along a 1-mile-long loop trail near Yosemite Lodge.

But for those looking to stretch their legs a bit more, the Yosemite Falls Trail offers a more challenging yet rewarding experience. The 7.2-mile roundtrip hike takes visitors to the top of the falls, offering stunning views of Half Dome and the Sierra Mountains. The trail is steep and somewhat strenuous in sections but well worth the effort.

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Havasupai Trail, Arizona

Havasu Falls and plunge pool

Arizona's desert conditions can make the 10-mile hike along the Havasupai Trail challenging, but the payoff at the end makes it all worth it. The trail culminates at Havasu Falls of the most famous waterfalls in North America. The water tumbles 100 feet over the side of a cliff before splashing into a brilliantly blue pule of water below. That pool maintains a constant 70-degree F temperature all year round, making it the perfect place to take a refreshing dip upon arrival.

Havasu Falls is located on the Havasupai Reservation, which doesn't permit day hiking. That means visitors should plan on camping in the backcountry when they visit. The tribe also strictly regulates the number of hikers daily by requiring a permit. This ensures that the trail doesn't get overcrowded and that the falls remain pristine.

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Multnomah Falls Trail, Oregon

Multnomah Falls and bridge in Oregon

The Multnomah Falls Trail derives its name from the 620-foot waterfall that is found midway along its 5.2-mile length. But the Multnomah is just one of six waterfalls on the route, each of which is captivating in its own right. The highlight of the trek is crossing the famed Simon Benson Bridge, an architectural marvel that crosses the width of the titular waterfall. This gives hikers an up close and personal look at the falls while creating one of the most memorable and picturesque settings imaginable.

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The Zion Narrows, Utah

Waterfalls on the Zion Narrows trail

The most famous hiking route in Zion National Park is The Narrows. This trail requires travelers to don their water shoes as they trek up the Virgin River, which has carved a narrow, rocky gorge over countless millennia. The route is more than 16 miles long and passes numerous waterfalls as it meanders upstream. But day hikers only need to walk about a half-mile to reach Mystery Falls, one of the most popular and memorable spots on the entire trail. After that point, the route becomes much less crowded, although many more waterfalls can be found along the way.

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Falls Trail, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's Ricketts Glen State Park is home to 22 named waterfalls, all of which can be found along the aptly named Falls Trail. The 7.2-mile route is rocky at points, making it a moderately tough trek. But it rewards hikers with beautiful views of the park's numerous aquatic cascades, including the 94-foot Ganoga Falls. With its steep, rocky cliff faces and two distinct plunges, Ganoga is a popular destination along the trail because the route wanders close to the base of the falls, making it a perfect spot to snap photos.

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DeSoto Falls Trail, Georgia

DeSoto Falls in Georgia

Legend has it that Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto passed through what is now the Chattahoochee National Forest in 1540 as he searched for gold and other riches. As the tale goes, a member of the conquistador's party lost a piece of his armor, later discovered lodged in the waterfall in Georgia that now bears de Soto's name.

Travelers can visit this place by hiking a 2.2-mile trail to the base of DeSoto Falls. Fed by Frogtown Creek, the falls are broken into three separate sections and plummet more than 450 feet down a rocky cliff surrounded by a dense forest that includes rhododendron trees.

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Cumberland Falls Trail, Kentucky

Moonbows over Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

At just one mile in length roundtrip, the Cumberland Falls Trail proves that you don't always have to hike far to see an impressive waterfall. Located inside the Daniel Boone National Forest, Cumberland Falls is often called "the Niagara of the South." At 69 feet tall and 125 feet wide, it certainly lives up to that moniker.

But to catch this waterfall in all its glory, pay a visit during a full moon. During that time of the month, Cumberland Falls often exhibits moonbows, which are the equivalent of rainbows created by the light of the moon. This is a sight seldom seen elsewhere in the U.S., making this a unique destination for curious travelers.

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Bridal Veil Falls Trail, Colorado

Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride, Colorado

Located near the Colorado ski town of Telluride, Bridal Veil Falls Trail takes hikers up a box canyon to the base of the tallest free-falling waterfall in the state. Thanks to a rocky route, the 1.8-mile walk is moderately complex but provides access to the trail's namesake cascade. The towering Bridal Veil Falls drop more than 365 feet down the side of a mountain, creating a truly majestic view.

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Pipiwai Trail, Hawaii

Waimoku Falls on the island of Maui in Hawaii

When it comes to hiking trails with waterfalls, Hawaii has plenty of amazing ones to choose from. But the Pipiwai Trail on Maui may be the best, taking trekkers on a 4-mile roundtrip walk through a forest filled with guava trees en route to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. Along the way, hikers will catch glimpses of the island's verdant farmland, with towering volcanic mountains serving as a dramatic backdrop.

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St. Mary Falls Trail, Montana

Virginia Falls in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in Montana is well known for its scenic vistas, which include snowcapped peaks, pristine alpine meadows, and mountain lakes fed by glacial streams. There are numerous waterfalls inside Glacier, with Virginia Falls among the most beautiful. It can be found along the St. Mary Falls Trail, a relatively easy three miles walk.

You'll pass the trail's namesake triple-plunge waterfall while en route, but the 50-foot Virginia Falls is the true star of the show. A wooden platform provides the optimal spot to admire the view and capture photos of the rugged, craggy setting. Cool your feet in the swirling water at the base of this cascade before starting the trek back to the car.

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Canyon Rim Trail, Idaho

Shoshone Falls, and the Snake River Idaho
Tom Leddy / Getty Images

Most of the Canyon Rim Trail near Twin Falls, Idaho, is paved, making its 12.4-mile length a reasonably easy walk. The route takes visitors past Shoshone Falls, which is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the entire country. Following the spring melt-off, more than 20,000 cubic feet of water per second flows over the falls, spaning 900 feet in width and 212 feet in height. That size and scope have garnered comparison to Niagra Falls but in a mountain setting.

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Rainbow Falls Trail, Tennessee

Rainbow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Photosbyjam / Getty Images

If you want to see the tallest single-plunge waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll need to hike the challenging Rainbow Falls Trail. The 5.4-mile roundtrip trek is rocky and features 1,500 feet of elevation gain to reach the waterfall that shares its name. But hikers who make the trip will be rewarded with impressive views of the 80-foot cascade, which earned its name for the frequent rainbows in its mists on sunny days.

These are the very best hiking trails across the U.S. that include waterfalls along their length. Still, with more than 17,000 waterfalls located in the country, this list just skims the surface of what is out there waiting to be explored. Chances are, no matter where you go, there is a beautiful waterfall located close by and an amazing hike to take to you there.