One of the many abstract joys of traveling is discovering your fascination for specific things you learn to seek in your journeys. For example, I have an amazing fascination for sunrises and sunsets I never knew of before. I have difficulty waking up for my 9 am classes, but I will have no difficulty waking up at 5 on a cold, wintry morning to take a walk by the sea, hearing the waves roar and the birdies fly by as the sun comes up and says hi. Similarly, I have a fascination for trains. And bridges. Not to mention waterfalls. Waterfalls perhaps do not figure as high in my excitometer as volcanoes and trains do, but they are definitely something I look out for. Sadly, my great waterfall experiences are all restricted to the United States, while there are hundreds of breathtaking waterfalls all over the world that I will probably not get a chance to see. However, this is my personal list of my favorite waterfalls in the United States, in no particular order. They are most certainly not exhaustive, and I realize that even within the United States, there are many more beautiful waterfalls I have missed out on.
1. Sol Duc Falls (Washington)
Located near Forks in the Olympic National Park (the same Forks from the Twilight series), this is an easy and less than 1 mile hike from the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resorts to the fall. I have seen variation in the way it is spelled, some spell it as “Sole Duck”. We went there on a hot afternoon and had a great time cooling off by the waterfall. It is about 3-4 hours drive from Seattle.
2. Fall name unknown (Montana)
As much as I try to remember the name of this waterfall, my memory fails me. It was the fall (season) of 2009 when we visited Glacier National Park in Montana (8-9 hours of drive from Seattle). We decided to hike a random trail and at the end of it, we came across this beautiful waterfall. If anyone of you have been here and know what this waterfall is called, please let me know.
3. McWay Falls (California)
Located in Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Monterey, California, it is one of the not so many waterfalls that falls directly into the Pacific Ocean. It is an easy hike from the trailhead, hardly takes 15-20 minutes, and the blueness of it is breathtaking. It drops about 80 feet off a cliff onto the ocean. Although you can watch it from the vista point, you are not legally allowed to get down onto the scenic beach. If you are driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, this is a must see.
4. Shoshone Falls (Idaho)
This was an accidental discovery for us on our way to Yellowstone National Park. Feeding off the Snake river, this is also known as the “Niagara of the West”. In fact, it is higher than the Niagara Falls. We had driven all night on our way to Yellowstone and wanted to take a break when the person at the gas station suggested we take a short detour and go visit this fall. This is a picture taken at 5 in the morning. The rugged canyon-like roads that lead to the waterfall reminds you of Grand Canyon. We were a car full of nine people and only two of us (my driver friend and myself) had stayed up the entire night for the drive. Our fellow friends were still sleeping when the person at the gas station suggested we check this one out. Once we had reached the area and parked, our friends woke up in confusion, wondering if we had already reached Yellowstone National Park. Eventually we hiked for a few minutes and reached the vista point. The view we saw from there had made our day.
5. Christine Falls (Washington)
Located near Longmire, Nisqually, this is one of the many scenic waterfalls to visit during those summer and fall trips to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington (about 3 hours drive from Seattle). This is hardly a hike, and the other pretty falls around the area are Narada Falls, Cougar Falls, and Myrtle Falls.
6. Multnomah Falls (Oregon)
Located close to the city of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge, this is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. This 600+ feet tall fall makes you crane your neck to get a glimpse of it. This one looks like it is located in two tiers (the upper fall and the lower fall), with the bridge in between. This is a moderate 2 mile hike.
7. Lower Falls (Wyoming)
Located in the Yellowstone National Park, this waterfall feeds off the Yellowstone river. This is almost twice high as Niagara, and descends from the 590,000 year old Canyon Rhyolite lava flow. In fact, this is the largest volume major waterfall in the US Rocky Mountains. There are numerous vantage points you can see the waterfall from, and I don’t remember it to be an extremely strenuous hike. This one, we visited during the same road trip when we had discovered the Shoshone Falls mentioned earlier. Located near the Canyon Village, we viewed the fall from various points, including the one from Artist’s point. The Upper Falls nearby is also a must see.
8. Snoqualmie Falls (Washington)
A 40 minute or a 25 mile drive from Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls is the second most visited tourist destination in the state of Washington after Mount Rainier. This one is about a 100 feet higher than Niagara, although I still wonder if it was optical illusion that made Niagara Falls seem so tall. It feeds off the Snoqualmie river, and there is a short 20 minute and half a mile hike that takes you to the bottom of the fall. I have seen everything, from picnics to weddings happening in this park. Snoqualmie Falls was the most coveted destination on unplanned nights after dinner. The drive on I-90 is pretty in itself, and there is an outlet mall nearby for people interested in shopping. The view from the deck is breathtaking, especially when the multi-colored lights focus on it.
9. Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite (California)
This frozen picture of the fall was taken on a snowy Christmas when we visited the Yosemite National Park. There is some interesting history behind this fall. The Ahwahneechee tribe believed in the spirit Pohono that guarded the Yosemite valley, and cursed those leaving the valley who looked directly into the fall. Given the frozen fall, I could not really figure out if the shape of the fall resembled that of a bridal veil even after staring at it for long. However, I am also told that people believed inhaling the mist of this fall improved one’s chance of marriage. This was an easy 20 minute hike.
10. Letchworth State Park (New York)
This state park (also known as the Grand Canyon of the east) is a short drive from the city of Rochester, and houses three beautiful falls- upper, middle, and lower falls. There are various scenic vista points that allow a beautiful view of the gorge, and the hike to the falls are neither that long nor that difficult. The three falls are located in the Portage Canyon. The middle falls is the highest. The upper falls has a railroad running close to it that provides a higher vantage point for the falls. The park houses the highest waterfall in the state of New York (called Taughannock Falls).
And finally ….. the grandest of all waterfalls that I have seen is indisputably the Niagara Falls in the state of New York.
Someday, I want to visit many other waterfalls in my list. Some of the names in my ever-expanding and never inclusive list includes Angel Falls in Venezuela (the world’s highest waterfall, and remember the movie “Up”?), Victoria Falls (Zambia), and Iguazu Falls (Brazil Argentina).
What are your favorite waterfalls?
P.S. An interesting link I found while writing this post.