Havasu Falls, Arizona
With a 10.3-mile hike in, seeing this postcard-worthy heavyweight isn’t for the faint of heart—especially in the middle of the summer. To avoid the heat, plan your trip in the fall, when temps are cool enough for hiking, but warm enough that a dip in the refreshing waters of the falls will still be a welcome treat.
image: jankgo / Flickr.
Roaring Brook Falls, New York
You’ll barely have to break a sweat getting to the bottom of this 300-foot cascade—the path to the bottom is just .3 mile. But if you’re feeling extra ambitious, go the additional .2 mile and crest the top of the falls for killer views of the Adirondacks. Then, continue on and crest 4,626-foot Giant Mountain 3.9 miles from the trailhead.
image: kezee / Flickr.
Yosemite Falls, California
Iconic, beautiful, and really, really big. What more could you want in a waterfall? Check them out on a 3-miler, but be prepared for a hefty 2,700-foot elevation gain. Once you’re done with the falls, be sure to check out some of the classic destinations within the park. After all, the park has over 800 total miles of trail.
image: docentjoyce / Flickr.
Comet Falls, Washington
This knockout got its name because of its close resemblance to the tail of a comet as it tumbles nearly 320 feet. You can reach it on a 3.1-mile roundtrip that also delivers views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. We like to call that a triple threat.
image: Bryce JW / Flickr.
Virgin Falls, Tennessee
There’s no grueling ascent to keep you away from this gusher. Cruise mostly downhill for 4.5 miles before reaching the 110-foot-high payoff. Spring runoff makes for the biggest splash, as the chilly waters spill from a cave and onto the limestone below. For best results, make the trip a weekend adventure.
[image: jdj150 / Flickr.]
Brooks Falls, Alaska
Admittedly, these falls don’t come close to matching their competitors in size. But they make up for their short stature with an impressive and intimidating regular visitor: the Alaska Brown Bear. A favorite spot for salmon-fishing grizzlies, hikers need travel just .5 mile for life-list viewing.
[image: Katmai NPS / Flickr]