Finally! Sunny blue skies are here and adventure is in the air, so it’s time to start planning your summer road trip. Waterfalls are so refreshing and relaxing that they will most definitely put you in vacation mode, so why not go chasing waterfalls?
Waterfalls come in a variety of shapes, sizes and number of drop points, making each an incredibly unique sight to gaze at. The continuous flow of water plunging over an edge or cliff is admirable and mind-boggling. Some of the most spectacular and beautiful waterfalls are known for being in the United States, and a few have only been visited by a handful of people. We have researched and highlighted a list of waterfalls in each region of the U.S. that you won’t want to miss this summer! Follow the legend below to start mapping out your summer road trip destinations.
West Region Waterfalls
On the West Coast, there is no shortage of waterfalls. In fact, two of the world’s tallest waterfalls run there — Yosemite Falls and Pu’uka’oku Falls — standing at 2,425 and 2,756 feet, respectively. There is a handful of falls that descend gracefully onto the sands of a beach or stream straight into the ocean, including McCay Falls in California. You’re also able to take a dip in a number of these falls!
What to Expect:
- Unpredictable weather in the spring and fall:
- The weather tends to vary day by day on the West Coast, sometimes making only certain days worthy of an adventure.
- The cities tend to be densely populated with commuters going to and from work, making traffic a little bit of an issue. If you plan your trip around dense traffic times, then everything will go smoothly.
Fun Fact: Bighorn sheep, a very wild and free animal, will come down to drink water under Bonita Falls. If you are quiet enough, they will come within 20 feet of you.
Midwest Region Waterfalls
The Midwest has some unforgettable waterfalls that are just an easy drive for a gorgeous view. These falls are located in isolated areas, making the hike quite peaceful. They also tend to freeze over during the winter, giving them fascinating, icy looks as they are frozen in time. It may be worth two trips to check out these falls during the cheerful summer and frosty winter.
What to Expect:
- Swing in temperatures:
- Between the summer and winter, the temperatures can reach over 100 degrees and fall well below zero. Make sure to pack layers!
- Tornado warnings:
- With an average of 50 tornadoes per year, this can be frightening for newcomers to the Midwest. The majority of storms occur in May and June.
Fun Fact: Located around the corner from Tunnel Falls is a 600-foot long tunnel you can walk through.
Southwest Region Waterfalls
Did you know there are numerous tall waterfalls in the Southwest? Most tower over 50 feet, giving your neck a stretch while looking up. Nambe falls in New Mexico stands at 100 feet, and people will even climb a thin strip of rock to be able to stand almost directly under the flowing stream! The South is also known for some amazingly delicious BBQ, which will hit the spot after a long waterfall hike. When traveling to waterfalls around the Southwest region, be careful of spiky cacti and snakes.
What to Expect:
- Hot summer:
- You’ll need to pack lots of water and sunscreen to make sure you don’t overheat or burn. We also highly advise bringing cool clothing and a hat.
- Dessert surroundings:
- Watch your step! There are plenty of spiky cactus plants and snakes, which can all be avoided by staying on designated trails. As an allergy warning, there’s lots of dust which could potentially trigger your symptoms.
Fun Fact: When swimming in the Hamilton Pool Falls, you can swim underneath the 50-foot waterfall because of the cave the falls rushes over.
Northeast Region Waterfalls
Being the smallest region in the U.S., you can knock out all these wonderful waterfalls within a week or two. Many of these waterfalls are open to the public at no cost. Even if you are not going to visit this summer, the fall season brings an abundance of beauty to the Northeast. There are also numerous historical buildings and landmarks nearby, such as the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania and the Old State House in Connecticut, which warrant a well-rounded trip to the Northeast region for waterfall chasing.
What to Expect:
- Various landscapes:
- The Northeast has a lot of different geographical attributes for being such a small area. There are grasslands, forests, coastal zones, beaches, dunes and wetlands.
- When it rains, it pours:
- The rain may not occur as often as in other regions but the downpour is incredibly heavy when it does rain.
Fun Fact: Ironically, Dry Run Falls is one of the few waterfalls that doesn’t dry out, even in the winter.
Southeast Region Waterfalls
Get your hiking gear ready because the falls in the Southeast require some endurance. A waterfall workout is what we like to call it, and these falls make the entire hike priceless. The Southeast also offers copious amounts of entertainment, such as downtown Nashville, TN, and amusement parks in Florida. Given the climate in the Southeast, the summers tend to be much longer and winters much shorter. This makes your road trip planning in the South a bit more flexible!
What to Expect:
- One thing that may drain your energy is the humidity. If you are not from the Southeast, you may find yourself getting gassed earlier than usual.
- Tropical storms:
- The season for tropical storms is usually June through October. The storms can include thunder, lightning and large gusts of winds.
Fun Fact: Devil’s Bathtub Falls go straight into a naturally smooth swimming hole that’s open 24/7.
Types of Waterfalls
While on your trip, you may be curious as to what type of waterfall you are touring! Did you know that there are 10 types of waterfalls to chase? We made sure to include different categories for you. Waterfalls might even fall into more than one category! To make sure you understand which type of waterfall you are viewing, check out the 10 categories below:
1. Plunge Waterfall
This waterfall streams out in one vertical shot from a ledge without touching the bedrock behind it, then plunging into another pool of water below.
2. Multi-step Waterfall
Falling from multiple steps, this waterfall is a beautiful and calming sight. The flow of water is usually wide and can create several pools.
3. Cataract Waterfall
The most powerful fall of them all, you can hear it from long distances away. Cataracts have a very strong stream, with an enormous volume of water rushing over the ledge.
4. Frozen Waterfall
Even though they aren’t falling, these falls still make a beautiful, frosty sight. They are more common on the East Coast and create large icicles.
5. Fan Waterfall
Creating a trapezoidal shape, this waterfall flows out like a fan because of a slower and weaker current.
6. Horsetail Waterfall
This waterfall keeps contact with the rock wall behind it and generally is the most common waterfall to find. Most people say it resembles the appearance of a horsetail.
7. Chute Waterfall
A chute waterfall is when a large stream of water travels through a tiny passage, creating a strong current from the pressure.
8. Punchbowl Waterfall
With the water falling directly into a pool, a punchbowl waterfall usually has easy access to swimming. The surroundings of a punchbowl are typically caves.
9. Cascade Waterfall
About every waterfall has a cascade effect in which it has many drops, sometimes too many to count. The water flow is also known to be the most gentle.
10. Block Waterfall
Running from a wide stream or river, this waterfall is usually wider than it is tall and covers the entire width of its source.
When planning your summer road trip to one of these waterfalls, be sure to check online for any potential trail damage from storms or other natural causes, especially for the ones that are less frequently traveled. While adventuring, make sure to take a minute to appreciate the surroundings and snap a few pics of the gorgeous views. The sound of water rushing down has a very calming effect, making the drive worthwhile.