We’re in the heart of vacation planning right now. Summer road trips get so much better when you can cool off in the spray of a waterfall. Today we’re posting our list of national parks with waterfalls, one of the most popular things to view while you and your family visit one of America’s protected places.
Yosemite National Park, California
When it comes to favorite national park waterfalls, Yosemite National Park almost always tops the list. Peak flow for the park’s waterfalls typically happens in mid-May, when water from the High Sierras makes it down to the Yosemite Valley. At 2,425 ft (739 m), Yosemite Falls is the most famous attraction in the park and the tallest waterfall in California. Nevada and Vernal Falls are also a popular hiking destination for first-time visitors.
Popular Waterfalls in Yosemite: Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, Horsetail Falls
Best Time to Visit: Late spring or early summer (May & June)
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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Most people think of geysers and boiling steam vents when they think of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Yet, Yellowstone has 45 named waterfalls and hundreds of unnamed falls. Many are available roadside, with no hiking required. Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls are the most popular, located in the stunning Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. At 1,200 feet, Silver Cord Cascade holds the distinction as the tallest waterfall in the park.
Popular Waterfalls in Yellowstone: Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, Union Falls, Tower Fall, Mystic Falls, Firehole Falls, Crystal Falls, Gibbon Falls, Undine Falls
Best Time to Visit: April and May before the peak travel season. Yellowstone’s waterfalls are also gorgeous during the winter season if you can brave the snow!
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Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
It’s well known that Mount Rainier National Park in Washington has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all the National Park Service. The park is home to over 150 named waterfalls. The 25 active glaciers here create plenty of opportunities for waterfall viewing many of which have good viewing year-round.
Popular Waterfalls in Mount Rainier: Christine Falls, Myrtle Falls, Upper Stevens Creek, Fairy Falls, Deer Creek Falls, Narada Falls, Comet Falls
Best Time to Visit: Some falls have great viewing year-round. Others are best viewed early summer for peak snowmelt runoff and the fall rainy season.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
The National Park Service reports that of the national parks with waterfalls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee has the perfect conditions for stunning falls. The high country here receives an average of 85″ of rain each year, with some locations receiving up to eight feet of rain! All this water flows into the park’s most popular waterfalls.
Popular Waterfalls in
Best Time to Visit: Year-Round, many of the park’s waterfalls are gorgeous in the winter
Park Guide to Waterfalls: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
When most people think of the Grand Canyon they think about deserts, not waterfalls.
Popular Waterfalls in Grand Canyon: Havasu Falls, Cheyava Falls, Deer Creek Falls, Ribbon Falls, Elves Chasm, Thunder River
Best Time to Visit: A few of Grand Canyon’s waterfalls continue year-round however peak viewing is in spring months of April and May.
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Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Minnesota
Park Chasers is happy to say that our local National Park Service unit in Minnesota is also a national park with waterfalls! Mississippi National River and Recreation Area is home to St. Anthony Falls near downtown Minneapolis. St. Anthony Falls is where during the height of the Minneapolis lumber and milling industry, the power of the falls was harnessed to help the city grow.
Today the St. Anthony Falls visitor’s center is home to the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam where visitors can see how boats and barges use the lock an dam system to navigate up the waterfall.
Best Times to Visit St. Anthony Falls: The falls can be viewed year-round from the Stone Arch Bridge in downtown Minneapolis. The lock and dam visitor’s center is open seasonally Memorial Day to Labor Day, with daily tours at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Some of the most popular destinations for hiking in Shenandoah National Park are to waterfalls. The tallest waterfall in the park is Overall Run Falls, at 93 feet. The hike to this falls is a strenuous 6.4 miles round trip with a climb of 1850 feet, but you’ll have a gorgeous view when you get there!
Popular Waterfalls in Shenandoah: Doyles River Falls Whiteoak Canyon Falls, South River Falls, Dark Hollow Falls, Rose River Falls
Best Times to Visit: Spring and early Summer
NPS Park Waterfalls Website: https://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm
Glacier National Park, Montana
With so much water captured in the glaciers of Glacier National Park, it’s not surprising that the park also has some stunning waterfalls. Glacier National Park has more than 200 named and unnamed waterfalls spread throughout the park. Many are available on quick hikes, others require you to hike to more remote locations of the park.
Popular Waterfalls in Glacier: McDonald Falls, Virginia Falls, St. Mary Falls, Bird Woman Falls, Red Rock Falls, Apikuni Falls, Baring Falls, Florence Falls, Ptarmigan Falls
Best Times to Visit: Spring months of May and June for peak snow-melt runoff
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Olympic National Park, Washington
Washington’s Olympic National Park has it all, snowy mountains, rainforests, gorgeous beaches, and yes, plenty of waterfalls. Olympic National Park protects more than 3,500 miles of rivers and streams, including some gorgeous waterfalls. More than a dozen are available year-round along easy to moderate hiking trails.
Popular Waterfalls in Olympic: Sol Duc Falls, Donahue Creek Falls, Marymere Falls, Royal Basin Falls, Madison Falls, Royal Basin Falls, Murhut Falls
Best Times to Visit: Year-Round
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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
The layered sandstone geology of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan makes it the perfect location for waterfalls. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the southern edge of Lake Superior is home to some of the best waterfalls in the area. A few of the park’s waterfalls can only be viewed from the water – the park’s boat tours come highly recommended for waterfall viewing.
Most Popular Waterfalls in Pictured Rocks: Munising Falls, Spray Falls, Miners Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Chapel Falls
Best Times to Visit: Spring run-off months of April and May
NPS Park Waterfalls Website: https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm
Devils Postpile National Monument, California
Devils Postpile National Monument in California is one of the most remote parks in the lower-48. Yet it’s home to the 101-foot high Rainbow Falls, a classic high Sierra mountain waterfall. The falls are a short
Best Times to Visit: The road to Devils Postpone National Monument remains closed for much of the year due to snow. The National Park Service posts information about anticipated opening dates of the road to the park, which usually occurs in June. The park also closes in mid-September or October due to snow and weather closures as well.
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
One of the most popular spots to visit in Haleakala National Park on Maui is Waimoku Falls. Located in the Kipahulu District of the park, it’s a stunning 400-foot waterfall accessible only after hiking through a dense bamboo forest. The hike takes 3-4 hours round trip, but well worth it to reach one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii. On the way, you’ll also see the Makahiku Falls, another one of the park’s gorgeous tropical spots.
Best Times to Visit: Water conditions change regularly here. Flash floods and hot, humid weather can change how much water comes over the falls during all parts of the year.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park should be on your list of national parks with waterfalls to visit. Native and early pioneer settlers came to visit the falls in the area, including the 65-foot Brandywine Falls. In total there are around 100 waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Most Popular Waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley: Brandywine Falls, Blue Hen Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Linda Falls
Best Times to Visit: Spring months of March, April and May.
Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska
Recently Katmai National Park & Preserve in Alaska has become one of the most viewed national parks with waterfalls. More than likely, you’ve seen this famous waterfall, even if you’ve never been to Alaska! Brooks Falls within Katmai National Park is central to the world’s most famous bear-watching webcam. People around the planet log on to view the falls and the grizzly bears that fish here. Sometimes more than 25 bears are viewed enjoying the salmon run.
Best Times to Visit Katmai National Park (or log on to the webcam: Bears can be seen in the falls during daylight hours, mid-spring until mid-fall. Most bear activity ends by September. From late June through the end of July the bears fish for sockeye salmon which can be seen jumping in the falls.
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Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, New Jersey
The community of Paterson, New Jersey was founded in 1792 in part because of the Great Falls of the Passaic River. The 260 feet wide and 77 feet tall waterfall is the main feature of the park which now includes historical exhibits about the factories and hydroelectric plant that were established in the area.
Best Time to Visit Great Falls: The falls are open for viewing year-round. Guided tours and the Paterson Museum are open weekly hours as staffing allows. Check the NPS website for more info on programming.
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Alamere Falls remains one of the unique gems of Point Reyes National Seashore in California. This unique waterfall cascades more than 30 feet onto Wildcat Beach and into the ocean. It’s available to visitors via three trailheads: Bear Valley, Palomarin and Five Brooks. Wildcat Beach is a great option for low-tide beach walking as well.
Best Times to Visit Alamere Falls: Year-Round. Although during the fall and winter months check
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
The Cascade Mountain range surrounding Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is the perfect spot for waterfall viewing. Some of the park’s most popular waterfalls are easily accessible from the road or within a short hike. With snowshoes or cross-country
Most Popular Waterfalls in Crater Lake: Toketee Falls, Plaikni Falls, Sun Creek Falls, Vidae Falls, Nearby: Rouge Gorge, National Creek Falls, Watson Falls
Best Times to Visit: Early Spring just as the roads are plowing off snowfall