12 Picturesque Waterfalls You Can Visit Without a Passport

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Photo: By Juancat (Shutterstock)

Earlier this summer, we wrote about the 15 U.S. islands you should visit. Now, we’re turning our attention to the magnificent waterfalls our country has to offer—and that you should experience at least once in your life. There are actually tens of thousands of waterfalls across the United States—some are large wonders of the world, like Niagara Falls in New York, while others are simply beautiful cascading falls set along picturesque hiking trails.

Here are a dozen of our favorite waterfalls that are either in your own backyard, or are worth traveling for.

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McWay Falls in Monterey, Calif.

McWay Falls in Monterey, Calif.

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California has many waterfalls that West Coast dwellers can visit, but the McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is unique. There are only two waterfalls in the United States that feed directly into the open sea, and McWay Falls is one of them. The 24-meter falls drop into pristine blue-green waters in Monterey, Calif. In just a short quarter-of-a-mile hike, you can enjoy these beautiful falls.

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Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

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Photo: By Jason Garza (Shutterstock)

This summer, instead of experiencing one waterfall, why not 10? Silver Falls State Park in Oregon is home to the “South Falls,” a 177-foot waterfall along a moderate 7.2-mile roundtrip hike. The size alone sounds like a magnificent view, but add nine other waterfalls along the way, and this one is worth strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trails.

Niagara Falls, New York

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It goes without saying that Niagara Falls is a marvel not to be missed. Popularly touted as the unofficial “8th wonder of the world,” Niagara Falls is the most powerful falls in the world. The wall of water pumps 168,000 cubic meters of flowing water over the canyon every minute and spreads across two countries. While the Canadian side is the most popular, you don’t have to cross the border to view its magnificence. The New York State side of the falls has fewer attractions, but you can still take the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the falls and back.

Nugget Falls, Alaska

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Outdoor adventure lovers flock to Alaska for the hiking and mountain views, and waterfalls should be added to that list. The water that rushes down the rack face at Nugget Falls comes from the ancient Mendenhall Glacier, making it a popular tourist destination. With a moderately leveled hike, you can see a remarkable glacier and beautiful 377-foot falls.

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Cumberland Falls in Corbin, Ky.

Cumberland Falls in Corbin, Ky.

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Photo: By IK Photography (Shutterstock)

Corbin, Ky. is the proud home of what is known as the “Niagara of the South.” Cumberland Falls are 60-foot falls spanning 125 feet wide and resembling a miniature Niagara Falls (hence the nickname). In addition to the gorgeous views, you can stay in rustic outdoorsy resorts and enjoy water sports like white water rafting.

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Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

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Michigan is probably the United States’ best-kept secret when it comes to outdoor adventures, from islands to waterfalls and hiking trails. The trail starts with the upper falls, known as one of “the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.” The falls are 50 feet tall and 200 feet wide. But, the fun doesn’t stop there. They then cascade down four miles to the lower falls. The views are stunning, and in addition, the state park offers visitors the Tahquamenon’s track chair—a specially outfitted chair that helps those who use wheelchairs enjoy parts of the park they could not have access to otherwise.

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Havasu Falls in Supai, Ariz.

Havasu Falls in Supai, Ariz.

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Arizona is known as a dry, hot land-locked desert state (among other things), but as a state with crystal blue lagoons and falls? Not so much. So I was surprised to find one of the most beautiful pools of water sits in Supai, Ariz. Havasu Falls is located on the Native Havasupai Reservation in a remote location that can only be accessed with a permit and a night’s stay on the campground or lodge in the Supai Village. Be prepared for a high-intensity and challenging hike to the falls; bring your own water and snacks because you will be on the trail for four hours.

While on your adventure, you’ll see three glorious falls: Lower Navajo, which is 50 feet tall and cascades down the two smaller Havasu Falls into a gorgeous turquoise pool. Unfortunately, since COVID-19 is still a risk, the Havasu Falls will remain closed until 2022. But people come from all over the world to see these falls, which means scoring a permit is hard, so it’s not a bad idea to start planning now for next year.

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Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania

Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania

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Photo: By Carol Moore (Shutterstock)

Deep in the forests of the Poconos lies eight separate waterfalls Pennsylvanians call the “Niagara of Pennsylvania” (this is apparently a trend). Bushkill Falls is enjoyed through its web of hiking trails and bridges that highlight all eight falls throughout the walk. Some bridges even go right over the falls or sit in the perfect place for a photo op. Besides trails, there are activities like fishing and mining for gems with the kids.

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Palouse Falls, Washington state

Palouse Falls, Washington state

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In Washington state sits canyons with 186-foot drops and breathtaking views. Palouse Falls State Park doesn’t call itself the Niagara of Washington—because it holds its own natural records. The canyons were carved out by glacier movement 13,000 years ago, and the resulting falls are the last active falls from the ice age floods. Witness Grand Canyon-level views, then take in the 200-foot waterfall drop that leads into the southern end of the Snake River at Palouse Falls.

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Calf Creek Falls Escalante, Utah

Calf Creek Falls Escalante, Utah

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In the same region as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (which you might know from movies like City Slickers and old westerns) sits the Calf Creek Falls—two falls that rush over streaks of minerals in ancient sandstone. The upper falls plummet down 130 feet into a deep hole where you can swim and enjoy the views. The lower falls are 88 feet tall and have less water falling from the ridges, so they are less popular and attract fewer tourists; but they’re just as beautiful, thus offering a quieter, more relaxing swimming experience.

Mesa Falls, Idaho

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Ashton, Idaho is home to Mesa Falls, 115-foot falls that rush over an ancient volcanic eruption site. Through hiking trails and lookout points, you can witness the upper falls plunging down the side of a volcanic rock cliff the height of a 10-story building. Then continue your journey to the lower falls that are just as brilliant.

Wailua Falls, Hawaii

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There are more than 100 waterfalls in Hawaii, and Wailua Falls are often ranked high on the top ten lists for best waterfalls on the islands. Wailua Falls might be one of the easiest falls to access in Hawaii, with a viewing area located on the street and a parking area to sit and enjoy them. They are also known for their appearance in the opening credits of the show Fantasy Island. The falls drop down 80 feet from the cliff face at the south end of the Wailua River. On a rainy day, the falls look like they stand 200-feet tall as the amount of water changes with the weather. Since you don’t need to hike very far to get there, Go Hawaii recommends packing a lunch and spending the day by the falls.

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