11 of the Most Beautiful Waterfalls in the United States
Climb to the summit of one of these natural cascades and you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views up high, churning whirlpools below, and soothing sounds.
Is there any element of nature more refreshing than the acoustic rush of (or maybe even a plunge into) a waterfall on a hot, sticky summer day? Every U.S. state flaunts these extreme-vertical drops, the water cascading down rocks into a river, lake, or stream as a result of historic events like glacial or fault-line shifts (such as the Ice Age, volcanoes, or earthquakes).
The soothing sound of trickling water has long been equated with slowing one's heart rate down and experiencing the almost-magical relief of stress slipping away. That excursions to waterfalls are often paired with a hike in the woods or forests—and dipping one's toes into cool water may be an associated activity—certainly helps. In a 2017 Scientific Reports study, researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School used brain scans and heart-rate monitors to evaluate responses of 17 adults while they listened to nature sounds, including waterfalls. The result? Reduced stress and anxiety. One reason for this instant relaxation is the repetitive sound of water sliding gracefully down rocks and through canyons. (Judging from the many apps and online videos of waterfalls, positioned as white noise, this is not surprising.)
Make a splash in your summer travels by checking out some of the 11 waterfalls on this list. Every state boasts at least one jaw-dropping waterfall that makes you see the awe and beauty in our country. From the famed Niagara Falls on the American and Canadian border to Kauai, Hawaii's tropical splendor, prepare to be inspired by these amazing natural wonders.
Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, New York
Tucked into Niagara Falls State Park and straddling the United States border with Canada's Ontario province, a trio of waterfalls (American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are on the U.S. side while Horseshoe Falls spans both countries) attracts eight million visitors each year.
Havasu Falls in Supai, Arizona
Spilling down red rocks into a picaresque pool of blue water, a tributary of the Colorado River, Havasu Falls are located near Grand Canyon National Park on the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park, California
Many find Bridalveil Fall, soaring 620 feet into the air, familiar long before they've visited, and that's thanks to Ansel Adams' striking black-and-white photography captured during the late 1920s.
Cucumber Falls in Dunbar, Pennsylvania
Less than five miles from the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Fallingwater is another popular site: this 30-foot waterfall with a graceful dip. Fallingwater owner Edgar Kauffman actually helped create the park with a major land purchase.
Wailua Falls in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
You might have seen these twin waterfalls in the opening credits of television show Fantasy Island, flowing into the Wailua River's South fork while the camera rolls.
Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, Michigan
Near Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the amber-hued Tahquamenon Falls drop 48 feet into its namesake river, and that's why some call it Root Beer Falls.
Nugget Falls in Juneau, Alaska
Cascading off of the Nugget Glacier, this 377-foot, two-tiered waterfall makes landfall in Mendenhall Lake, 13 miles from Juneau's downtown and in the Tongass National Forest.
Cumberland Falls in Corbin, Kentucky
In addition to the falls in Cumberland Falls State Park (within the Daniel Boone National Forest), you might spot a "moonbow," which is unique to this region. This lunar rainbow appears on either side of a full moon so long as the sky is clear and lasts for two days.
Multnomah Falls in Multnomah County, Oregon
A half hour east of Portland, the state's highest waterfall (and second in the nation only to Yosemite Falls in California) draws two million visitors per year who are eager to witness water rushing down basalt cliffs and into Multnomah Creek, eventually feeding into the Columbia River Gorge.
Whitewater Falls in Cashiers, North Carolina
Boasting a title of "the highest waterfall east of the Rockies," this 811-foot drop—in the Nantahala National Forest—is an hour southwest of Asheville. Divided between Upper and Lower Falls, the lower portion is actually in South Carolina.
Palouse Falls in LaCrosse, Washington
Spilling into a bowl-shaped canyon, the Palouse Falls plummet 200 feet on the Palouse River (leading to the Snake River). Local schoolchildren campaigned the state legislature for Palouse Falls to be named the state's official waterfall, and they won in 2014.