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Trip Finder: Waterfall Hikes

Nine ways to get your cascade fix from Tennessee to Montana.

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Hyalite Creek, MT (Photo by Josh Gage)


St. Peter’s Dome, WI (Photo by Paul McMahon


Gregory Bald Loop, NC (Photo by Tim Seaver)


Superior Hiking Trail, MN (Photo by Terry Donnelly)

Mountain West

Yellowstone National Park, WY

If this easy seven-mile out-and-back to secluded backcountry camping doesn’t turn you on, the six-tiered, 140-foot Terraced Falls will. Set out on the South Boundary Trail north of Grassy Lake Reservoir. After a mile, turn left onto Terraced Falls Trail and head to the edge of a 70,000-year-old lava flow to view the falls, one of the biggest in the park’s southwest corner. Backtrack to the Pitchstone Plateau Trail and go east three miles to two campsites.

Hyalite Creek, MT

The Hyalite Creek Trail, in the Gallatin Range south of Bozeman, has it all: falls, lakes, mountains. Tucked into a quiver of 10,000-foot peaks, Hyalite Creek boasts 11 unnamed slinky falls along the five-mile trek to Hyalite Lake. It’s an ice climber’s paradise in winter; a backpacker’s in summer. Make basecamp in the craggy cirque basin and strike out the next morning to the summit of Hyalite Peak, two miles north. Head out on day three.

Uncompahgre Wilderness, CO

Save the best for last (secluded Porphyry Falls) on this 29-miler. Take Wetterhorn Basin Trail over Cimarron Ridge to Wetter- horn Basin. Then go cross-country to Matterhorn Peak. Loop west on Trail 227 to reach the Cimarron River. Detour downhill two miles to Porphyry Basin and horsetailing Porphyry Falls before exiting at Middle Fork. Shuttle required.

Great Lakes States

St. Peter’s Dome, WI

Nestled in a jumble of rock, Morgan Falls drops 70 feet into a tiny grotto in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. It’s the focal point of this short dayhike and overnight. Take the two-mile St. Peter’s Dome Trail to the top of the red granite dome to spy the falls. Then backtrack to grab your overnight gear and head a half-mile back up to the eastbound Spur Trail for a four-miler to sites near rushing Frames Creek. ($5 parking fee)

North Country Trail, MI

See a mini-Niagara on a 20-mile point-to-point on the NCT in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Access the trail at the mouth of the Big Two-Hearted River, and beachcomb five miles to Culhane Lake Campground. Cruise marshland and stunted pines the next day, camping at flat sites near mile 12. End at Tahquamenon Falls State Park and its roaring spillway.

Superior Hiking Trail, MN

This Lake Superior hike follows the north shore 25 miles from Temperance River State Park to Cascade River State Park, passing through a gorge that churns the river into a series of chaotic falls. You’ll head north through boreal forest with constant views of the big lake. Feel quad-burn from Oberg to Lutson Mountains. Campsites are scattered on the route.


Honey Creek Loop, TN

The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area spans 125,000 acres of gorges and bluffs near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. The Honey Creek Loop is a short but challenging six-mile strike to its four best drops. Perhaps inspired by erratic Moonshine Falls, the path staggers back and forth across the creek, then cuts into a canyon some call the East’s only slot. Camp on a flat site by the Big South Fork, and curve south back to the trailhead.

Gregory Bald Loop, NC

This 16-miler is blessed with two Smokies icons: balds and falls. Follow Twentymile Trail past its namesake cascades before climbing steeply to the Upper Flats tent site. Day two is a scenic ascent to the 15-acre crest of Gregory Bald. Descend to the Sheep Pen Gap campsite, nestled in a glade with a spring nearby. End with a seven-mile cruise down Dalton Ridge.

Appalachian Trail, GA

At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the state’s biggest drop. Warm up on Amicalola Falls State Park’s 600-step stairway to its base. Then hoof it eight miles on the AT Approach Trail to Springer Mountain Shelter. Trek 7.6 miles through oaks to overnight at Long Creek Falls. Roll seven miles to Gooch Gap on day three. End with five miles to Woody, Georgia.

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