Plush forests, dynamic trails, and striking waterfalls await.
The U.S. is home to 58 national parks and thousands of trails. Sure, all the hikes can be appreciated, but trails that bypass or lead to waterfalls are that much sweeter. From easy to just plain hard, we’ve rounded up some of the prettiest hikes in our national parks, complete with roaring falls.
1. St. Mary to Virginia Falls: Glacier National Park, Montana
Featuring some of the earliest falls to be clear of snow in the area, this hike is very popular in summer, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. But hikers flock to this trail for a reason: the short, relatively easy hike hits five waterfalls and gorges from St. Mary Falls to Virginia Falls, the main two being the largest. Wildflowers, ferns, and tall pines line the trail. Bring your camera for this one!
2. Ouzel Falls: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
An open, well-groomed trail leads up to the dramatic, almost 40-foot Ouzel Falls. The gentle rise of the climb and the lush aspens and evergreens make for a fabulous outing for most skill levels. Along the way, among smaller, unnamed falls, you’ll see Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades. A perfect, shorter hike for summer, the trail is popular, so try to plan an early morning or evening hike.
3. Comet Falls: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Named for its resemblance to the tail of a comet, this is the tallest of Mt. Rainier’s falls. Full of switchbacks, the trail can be steep, somewhat challenging, and definitely dangerous in the early season. Continue on past the falls to Van Trump Park to take in sub-alpine meadows and breathtaking views of Mount Rainier.
4. Laurel Falls: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Named for mountain laurel, the 80-foot Laurel Falls waterfall is one of the most popular to visit in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A paved trail—the longest of four in the national park—takes you to the falls. Be cautious on this hike with children, as there are steep drop-offs, and keep in mind that bears inhabit the area.
5. Overall Run Falls: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
The hike to Overall Run Falls is well worth it for the views. It’s one of the longest continuous falls in Virginia. The hike starts off gently but increases in difficulty as the trail winds through some dense forest (that is home to bears). Aim to hit this trail in summer, when there will be plenty of water in the falls.
6. Havasu Falls: Havasupai Reservation, Grand Canyon Arizona
The blue-green water of the striking Havasu Falls is hidden within the Grand Canyon. Not for the inexperienced, the hike to Havasu Falls is around 10 miles each way. Come prepared for this one: Bring plenty of water, and be ready for the way back to be harder than the path in. Because Havasu Falls is located on Havasupai Indian Reservation, you do need to obtain a permit for this hike. Click the link below to see full details on the hike, including how to obtain a permit.