Best Summer Waterfall Hikes

Rest your feet by a backcountry oasis on one of these nine hikes.
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Panther Creek Falls

Cohutta Wilderness, GA

Pitch your tent above these 70-foot falls deep in the woods of Georgia, with a perfect swimming hole at the bottom for an evening—or morning—dip. There are half a dozen campsites (first-come, first-serve) for the taking above the falls, clustered among large boulders and fragrant old-growth eastern hemlocks at the end of a 7.1-mile approach hike. If you can nab the spot right above the falls, you’ll score the best view. Otherwise, hike a few hundred feet more for a larger site with fewer boulders. Ryan Wamsley

Permit none Contact Cohutta Wilderness

Cabin Creek Falls

Grayson Highlands State Park, VA

This hidden gem of a state park has a sky big enough to rival any in Montana, a heavenly blue that arcs over an open grassland with rocky outcroppings laced with rhododendrons in June. The four-mile hike to 20-foot Cabin Creek Falls combines creekside rambling, trailside waterfalls, rhododendron tunnels, blueberry patches, and wild ponies. This is a ramble best done at sunset; bring your camera to capture the fading light over the water. Jennifer Pharr Davis, as told to Ellie Levitt

Permit $7 admission fee ($10 from April to October) Contact Grayson Highlands State Park

Cooper Canyon Falls

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, CA

Find peace and quiet, clean water, and fresh air just outside the city on a 3.1-mile (round-trip) hike to a waterfall in the San Gabriels. Start on the Burkhart Trail, descending in the periodic shade of Douglas fir and Jeffrey pines. After about a mile, the trail forks—keep right, then scramble down to the left (use the 15-foot fixed rope) to the waterfall where ferns line the canyon floor.

In spring, the watery roar drifts uphill like a summons, but in late summer, the falls slow to a trickle threading down a mossy wall. Look for tiny trout in the pool below. Elizabeth Miller

Permit $5 day pass, available at trailhead Contact San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Berry Creek Falls

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CA

This 9-mile loop offers a full day of wandering beside Berry Creek, with four waterfalls tucked in among the enormous redwoods. The route winds through some of the oldest trees in the park between dipping through fern-hung creekbeds, shaded from the summer heat by their branches high above. Linger for a moment at Golden Cascade Falls, named for the unusual yellow-orange rock beneath the water. Elizabeth Miller

Permit $10 day use fee Contact Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Arethusa Falls

Crawford Notch State Park, NH

Head to New Hampshire's tallest waterfall on this short out-and-back, with a 2.4-mile round-trip distance from the trailhead. Start from the Arethusa Falls trailhead and get ready for the White Mountain special: a steep, 700-foot gain in a mile. A few minutes later, catch your breath on the .2-mile spur to Arethusa Falls, where water cascades nearly 160 feet. Elizabeth Miller

Permit $5 day use fee Contact Crawford Notch State Park

"Cumberland Falls" by pmuellr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

"Cumberland Falls" by pmuellr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, KY

Nicknamed the “Niagara of the South,” 69-foot Cumberland Falls does actually look like its more famous cousin in miniature. The view is impressive any day, but catch it at night during a full moon for a chance at catching a nocturnal rainbow (or “moonbow”). Take the leisurely 1-mile round trip to the cascade, or connect the path to the Moonbow Trail for a 10.8-mile jaunt. Elizabeth Haas

Permit none Contact Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Bridal Veil Falls

Telluride, CO

Colorado’s tallest free-falling cascade tumbles 365 feet down from the head of a box canyon near Telluride crowned with a historic power plant. The best way to view them: From the top. Starting at a parking area just past the Pandora Mine, tackle a moderate, 4-mile round-trip hike along a four-wheel-drive road (watch for bikes and vehicles along the path). Elizabeth Haas

Permit none Contact Telluride Tourism 

"DSC08934" by The Cut is licensed under CC BY 2.0

"DSC08934" by The Cut is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bond Falls

Bond Falls State Scenic Site, MI

This .9-mile loop hike isn’t exactly challenging. But if you’re in the Midwest, craggy Bond Falls is the cascade you need to see. It’s a pretty cushy experience too, with six viewing areas, including three viewing platforms and 600 feet of boardwalk strolling. Elizabeth Haas

Permit None Contact Michigan Tourism 

Falls Creek Falls

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA

Bask in the cool spray of this 100-foot waterfall, tucked into picturesque second-growth forest. The hike in is just 1.5 miles. A suspension bridge shortly before the falls has the best views of the cascade, a triple drop over the edge of the gorge. The rock to either side of the water is covered with moss, lending the scene a rainforest feel. Kristin Smith

Permit $5 day pass or annual Northwest Forest Pass Contact Giffort Pinchot National Forest