12 Breathtaking National Parks with Waterfalls (including a few other NPS sites!)
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Let’s be honest; some of the most beautiful places to visit in the United States are the national parks, both on the east and west coast and everywhere in between. But did you know some of the can’t-miss parks are actually national parks with waterfalls?
Luckily, I’ve compiled a list of those waterfalls in national parks with the help of other travelers to make it easy for you to decide which one you should add to your dream destinations bucket list. From Virginia all the way to Hawaii, this post has the best of the best.
Keep reading to learn about the top national parks with waterfalls in no particular order!
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio has a diversity of places to see and do within the boundaries of the national park. As the Cuyahoga river snakes through the park, several waterfalls can also be visited during your stay.
Among the waterfalls, the most famous of which is Brandywine Falls, on the eastern end of the park on Brandywine Creek. The 65-foot waterfall pours over into the mossy gorge and visitors have access to an upper and lower viewpoint for the waterfalls.
The waterfalls are the tallest in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and one of the most beautiful in Ohio.
The waterfall is easily reached via a boardwalk from the Brandywine falls parking lot to the upper viewpoint. Access to the lower viewpoint requires descending an additional 80 steps.
For those looking for a longer hike, there is a Brandywine Gorge Loop which takes visitors deeper into the gorge and gives access to seasonal vernal pools.
Given the popularity of the waterfalls, the parking can fill up rather quickly. For those who are not tired of waterfalls, there are options to stay at the nearby Inn at Brandywine Falls which are adjacent to the waterfalls.
Contributed by Anwar from Beyond my door
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is known for its grand granite walls, like Half Dome and El Capitan, that soar up thousands of feet from the Valley floor. But on several of those towering rock walls, you can also find spectacular waterfalls.
Two of the best waterfalls in Yosemite are Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls which are easily accessed via a short hike, making Yosemite one of the best national parks with waterfalls!
The best way to see these waterfalls is by taking the Mist Trail from Happy Isles. Your first view of Vernal Falls is from the footbridge just under a mile along the trail. Then you can continue another half a mile along the Mist Trail to the very top of Vernal Falls for absolutely breathtaking views.
Head another mile and a half or so up some steep switchbacks to appreciate the force of nature that is the 594-foot Nevada Falls. From there, cross a bridge to hike the John Muir Trail back down to the Valley for a different perspective of the waterfalls and more gorgeous views.
If you haven’t gotten your fill of waterfalls yet, you should also check out Yosemite Falls nearby. It’s a 2-mile round trip hike to Columbia Rock, which offers excellent views out over Yosemite Valley. Just a half mile past Columbia Rock, you’ll be treated to an amazing view of Upper Yosemite Falls as well.
Contributed by Allison from She Dreams of Alpine ®
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Located in southern Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the best national parks with waterfalls. The waterfall in this park is truly spectacular and unlike any of the others on this list because it’s surrounded by glowing orange rocks.
To get to this waterfall, hike the Mossy Cave Trail. It’s a fairly easy, kid-friendly trail that is mostly flat. Follow along next to a little creek unit you get to a cave area with a waterfall!
What makes this hike so easy and worth doing is that it’s heavily shaded compared to other spots throughout the park. Plus, you can pretty much cool off at any time by touching the nearby water throughout the hike.
This trail can get fairly busy because it’s one of the most kid-friendly trails in the park, so be sure to do it earlier in the morning or later in the evening to avoid crowds. It can take a while to get a picture without other people in it, but it’s definitely doable.
As one of the best things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park, it’s easy to see why this trail can’t be missed. Keep in mind that the parking lot for this trail is small, so sometimes, it can be hard to find a spot to park during the busy season.
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Hawaii is known for its waterfalls, and one of the most iconic waterfalls can be found inside the Kipahulu district of Haleakala National Park. The Kipahulu District is a remote area in East Maui and getting there is half the adventure. The only road that takes you to this entrance of the Park is the infamous road to Hana.
Inside Haleakala National Park is Waimoku Falls which can only be reached by tackling the Pipiwai Trail, one of Maui’s best hikes. The 4-mile round trip trail takes you past ancient banyan trees, through a majestic bamboo forest, and ends at the iconic Waimoku Falls.
Waimoku Falls is a stunning 400-foot waterfall that you see pictured on the cover of many of Maui’s guidebooks. The enormous waterfall cascades down a steep lava rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool.
Being that Waimoku Falls is one of the tallest on Maui, you can’t swim under it. Even a pebble falling from that height could seriously injure someone.
A dramatic coastline, lush rainforest, enchanting bamboo forests, and photogenic banyan trees make this waterfall a must-visit when traveling to the island of Maui.
Contributed by Jess from I’m Jess Traveling
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
If you’re looking for one of the best national parks in the USA with a waterfall, then Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is the place to be.
After all, this oasis of alpine beauty is the fourth most visited national park in the country and is home to the 30-foot tall Alberta Falls.
It’s a charming waterfall that cascades down into the creek below and that can be accessed by way of an easy, 1.6-mile round trip hike through aspen groves.
To get to the trailhead just make your way to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead parking area. It’s on Bear Lake Road about 8 miles away from the Highway 36 turn-off.
Once at the parking lot, embark on an hour-long hike that will take you past one of the best viewpoints in the park and that is easily one of the best hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
And if you can, try to visit any time between the end of May and the start of June since this is when melting snow from the mountains increases the flow of the waterfall.
Also, due to the popularity of the Bear Lake area during peak season, you may want to use the free shuttle to get to the trailhead to avoid oversaturated parking lots.
Contributed by Meg from Fox in the Forest
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier is a Washington icon. This massive and active stratovolcano is just southeast of Seattle and is an incredible place to include during your visit. Some of the best things to do in the park are hiking, cruising along the windy roads, and chasing waterfalls.
There are a few waterfalls in Mount Rainier, but some are a bit hidden or hard to reach. Luckily, there are a hand full that are quite easy to get to! It’s easily one of the best national parks with waterfalls.
Myrtle Falls is possibly the most popular waterfall because it’s reachable by hiking the Skyline Loop Trail, one of the most breathtaking hikes in the park. You can make the whole loop for epic views or just a portion of it to get to the falls with Mount Rainier as the backdrop!
Not too far down the road, you’ll also find Narada Falls, which you can easily visit with a short but steep hike down from the parking lot. It’s a stunning horsetail waterfall that flows over andesite.
Two more waterfalls that are also worth a visit are Christine and Comet Falls. Christine is seen from the road gently flowing beneath a grey stone bridge, but you’ll have to work for Comet Falls. It’s a moderate hike but worth it to see the towering 300+ foot drop at the end!
Like most waterfalls, it’s best to view them after rainfall and around springtime.
Contributed by Nina and Garrett from Washington is for Adventure
Olympic National Park, Washington
The stunning Olympic National Park, covering much of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state is one of the most diverse corners of the world. Offering alpine plains to rugged Pacific Coast beaches to rainforests, our favorite part of road tripping Olympic National Park is seeking out the waterfalls.
There are seven distinct waterfall areas, with some quite easily accessible roadside such as Merriman Falls and Madison Falls only a 5-minute walk. However, the most spectacular and our favorite spot in the park is Sol Duc Falls. It is not the tallest at only 48 feet, but the most impressive by volume and location deep in the rainforest.
You need to detour off the circular road around the park, Highway 101, along Sol Duc Hot Springs Road to find the trailhead. Allow an hour from Port Angeles, or at least 3 hours if you’re day tripping from Seattle.
The 0.8-mile walk to the falls is described as easy (we’d say moderate with little legs in tow), there are plenty of fallen logs and slippery surfaces to navigate. You do pass some smaller water cascades over the mossy rocks on the way that some mistakenly seemed to think was the main event and turned back. But make no mistake, you will know when you’ve met the falls proper!
A spectacular thundering sound and fine mist await. Surrounded by old-growth trees and lush rainforest depending on rainfall the falls can split into as many as 4 channels. There are good viewpoints up and downstream as well as from the bridge that crosses the falls.
All up depending on fitness levels we’d allow at least an hour for the walk and to admire and photograph the falls– bring a tripod and some patience. After you’ve finished, you can ease the body off at the Sol Duc Hot Springs that neighbor the trailhead car park (though note since COVID, pre-booking has been required). Camping with reservations is also possible close to the trailhead at Sol Duc.
Contributed by Keri from Family Road Trip
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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
While Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has not been promoted to national park status, it is certainly a waterfall destination for national park lovers.
Pictured Rocks is located on the shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and it requires some driving to get both to and around the park. It is hard to choose a favorite waterfall in the park because there are options for every type of adventure.
From the gentle cascades of Sable Falls on the east side of the park to the easily accessible Munising Falls on the western side, there are plenty of options.
While on your Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore adventure, be sure to plan a hike on the Chapel Falls loop. It’s one of the best hikes in all of Michigan, and it includes Chapel Falls, beaches, and stunning scenery. There is a gentle cascade flowing over the beach and into the lake where you can sit and enjoy the views.
The short, one-mile hike in the middle of Pictured Rocks leads to the beautiful 50-foot-tall Miner’s Falls. While these aren’t the tallest or most powerful waterfalls you will ever see, the colorful cliffs, thickly wooded backdrops, and Lake Superior views make the waterfalls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore worth the visit.
Contributed by Samantha Meabon from PA on Pause
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, New Jersey
Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in New Jersey is the perfect option for a picturesque waterfall– without having to hike too far. The park itself was actually only deemed a National Historical Park back in 2011, but the history goes back much further.
Alexander Hamilton himself selected the area to create an industrious city. The gorgeous, powerful waterfall and Passaic River were the perfect forms of hydropower.
Nowadays, though you don’t need to worry about the water powering your lightbulbs, you can still enjoy the waterfall up close and personal by crossing the walking bridge right in front of the falls. If you’re visiting in summer, enjoy the cool mist coming from the crashing water!
There’s also a visitor’s center with helpful staff who can give you more information on the area’s history. There are also bathrooms available inside. If you want more of a workout, you can also travel to High Mountain in about 15 minutes, with hiking trails and views of New York City.
If you’re coming from out of state, your best bet is to fly into JFK. New York City is only 15 miles from Paterson Great Falls, so you can either rent a car or use a bus carrier like Ourbus to make the trip to New Jersey.
Contributed by Rachel from Wanderu
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is home to several amazing waterfalls. The most famous is Dark Hollow Falls. In fact, the hike to these falls is the most popular trail in the park.
Like most of the trails in Shenandoah, you hike down to the falls, then hike back up to the top of the ridge at the end. The trail is 0.75 miles each way, which isn’t long, but be prepared for the steep climb back to the top.
After walking through a beautiful shady forest alongside a narrow river, you first arrive at the top of the falls. The view here is lovely, but it’s worth the steep – but short – descent further down to the bottom of the falls.
Dark Hollow Falls is 70 feet in total, cascading over several tiers. The water splits at the bottom, ending in a large pool before the river continues down the mountain. The falls are incredibly beautiful.
They are nestled in the forest and are especially lovely in the fall when they’re surrounded by golden foliage. Unlike many of the waterfalls in Shenandoah, they also flow year round.
To reach the falls, park at the trailhead, which is located at Mile 50.7 on Skyline Drive, near Big Meadows, and follow the well-marked trail. Shenandoah National Park is one of the top national parks with waterfalls that you can’t miss.
Contributed by James Ian from Parks Collecting
Glacier National Park, Montana
While Glacier National Park has many beautiful waterfalls, one of the most beautiful waterfall views in the park is at Avalanche Lake. It’s easily one of the best national parks with waterfalls to add to your bucket list.
The hike to Avalanche Lake is 6.7 miles round-trip. The trailhead is located next to the Avalanche Campground and is accessible from the West Glacier entrance of the park. This is great for those wishing to avoid the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
The trail itself is beautiful with new breathtaking views all along the way. Once you reach the top of the trail, you will emerge from the forest to a stunning view of Avalanche Lake.
One of the things that make this view so breathtaking is all of the waterfalls cascading down the surrounding mountains. Standing on the edge of the lake you will be able to see more than a dozen waterfalls all around you! If you are a waterfall lover, then this magical view is sure to impress!
We enjoyed the lake for several hours before starting back down to our car. If you have time, be sure and hike around the far side of the lake. The waterfalls feed into the lake there, and the water is crystal clear. A lot of people even chose to swim in it!
Other waterfalls in Glacier National Park that are more prominent are Virginia Falls and St. Mary’s Falls.
Contributed by Janae of Adventures With TuckNae
Yellowstone National Park
A USA National Park with great waterfalls is Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Situated in a volcanic caldera, Yellowstone has around 300 waterfalls varying in size. And the most spectacular to see are the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River, located in an area of the park known as Canyon thanks to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
These two waterfalls cascade one after the other along the Yellowstone River and there are a few viewing points from which to enjoy the falls.
The Upper Falls has two points to view the waterfall, Uncle Tom’s Trail and the Brink from which you can see the river fall at the waterfall point and hear the roar of the water. Both have a car park from which you can easily access the viewpoint.
The Lower Falls are located a short drive along the Canyon Road and the best viewpoint is from the Red Rock Point, although there are other viewpoints as well. This trail requires some stamina as it has many steps, twists and turns, and drops around 260ft along both paved and rocky paths, but you are rewarded with unparalleled views of the tallest waterfall in Yellowstone. For spectacular pictures, this is the point from which to take your picture memories.
Contributed by Cath from Passports and Adventures
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