As snow starts to melt and flowers begin to bloom, we couldn’t be more excited to get outside and explore new waterfalls! Whether you’re looking for a scenic drive or an adventurous hike, there’s something for everyone. We’ve compiled a list of waterfalls to chase across the national parks, check it out!
Grotto Falls - Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Wander into the Great Smoky Mountains and discover the beauty of Grotto Falls! You’ll find a large parking area (Stop #5) as you drive into the mountains along the Roaring Fork Nature Trail. Keep in mind that this is a narrow, winding, one-way road that is closed in winter and is prohibited to large trucks, buses and RV's. Once parked, hike the Trillium Gap Trail through a magical old-growth hemlock forest! The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is approximately 3 miles and considered moderately difficult—sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. It's also important to keep in mind that black bears are sometimes active in this area. Once you arrive, enjoy the cool, moist environment coming from the falls, and who knows, you may spot a salamander or two as well!
Narada Falls - Mount Rainier National Park:
On your way to Paradise, stop by Narada Falls, which is the largest waterfall accessible by car in Mt. Rainier! The Narada Falls parking and rest area is open year-round and has a stunning view of the falls from the upper pullout. Here you can also find picnic tables, restrooms, and a trail to the bottom of the waterfall! The trail is a 0.4 mile round-trip with a steep, 200-foot descent/ascent. Be sure to hike with care as the path may be wet and slippery. Once you arrive, take in the intensity of the 168 ft. drop and surrounding andesite lava! At the falls, the Paradise River plunges over a relatively recent flow of hard andesite lava. The cooling was accelerated by contact with the icy surface of the glacier that once filled the valley.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone’s Upper and Lower Falls - Yellowstone National Park:
Experience the grandeur of the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River with a variety of trails and walkways along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Take a drive along the North Rim’s one way road for various accessible views of the falls. Beginning at Brink of Lower Falls, you’ll have a close view of the falls from paved accessible trails at the top. Want an even closer look? Descend the Brink Trail to witness the power of the Lower Falls! Keep in mind this trail involves a steep descent and ascent. Continue along the North Rim to Lookout Point and Grand View for beautiful, wider views of the falls, river, and canyon. The final stop at Inspiration Point provides a breathtaking perspective of the entire canyon with a view of the falls in the distance. For a different viewing experience, you can also drive along the South Rim, which begins 2.3 miles south of Canyon Junction. Take in some of the amazing views of Upper Falls at Upper Falls Viewpoints, and visit Artist Point for a different angle of the lower falls and canyon.
Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls - Yosemite National Park:
While in Yosemite, take a chance to discover the wonder of Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls up close! Keep in mind that no parking is available around these falls, so take the Valleywide or East Valley Shuttles to stop #16 and follow the signs to where the trail begins. While the first paved mile of this trail can be the busiest, it provides early access to a view of Vernal Falls from the Vernal Fall Footbridge. As you continue 0.2 miles beyond the bridge, you’ll find where the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail diverge. From here you can follow the Mist Trail for 0.3 miles up a steep granite stairway where you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views straight down the length of the 317-foot waterfall! Satisfied? You can head back down the way you came or take the longer route back via the John Muir Trail which will be 0.2 miles away at the next junction. Should you choose to continue along the Mist Trail, be prepared for steep and rocky switchbacks for 1.5 miles until you reach Nevada Falls. Once you arrive, take a closer look by crossing the footbridge above the Merced River, where you’ll get a top down view of the falls! Use extreme caution while you're near any flowing water or wet rock in this area. From here, you can either return down the Mist Trail, or continue over the bridge to the John Muir Trail, which provides a different perspective of Nevada Falls and great views of Liberty Cap. Keep in mind the John Muir Trail is longer, approximately 4 miles one-way compared to the Mist Trail’s 2.5 miles. While embarking on this adventure, make sure to stay hydrated, pace yourself, and enjoy the views!
Doyles River Fall - Shenandoah National Park:
Yearning for an escape to the wilderness? Look no further with a trip to Shenandoah for a hike through the trees to Doyles River Falls! From the Doyles River Parking Area, take the blue-blazed Doyles River Trail. This is a moderate 3.4 mile out-and-back trail which may take 2-3 hours to complete, so plan accordingly. Dogs are also welcome on the trail, but must be on a leash at all times. On your way to the falls you’ll cross the Appalachian Trail, pass the trail to Doyles River Cabin and cross a stream! As you arrive you’ll feel the cool and fresh environment created by the Upper Falls and can continue a little further to see the Lower Falls as well. Once you’ve reached the falls, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
Brandywine Falls - Cuyahoga National Park
Experience the beauty of Brandywine Falls and the surrounding area from dawn to dusk! No matter what time of year, this waterfall will offer an amazing viewing experience. In spring and summer we can see a higher water volume rushing over the falls, especially after a storm and the runoff from upstream paved surfaces. In seasons with less water, the bridal-veil pattern becomes more pronounced, and in winter you can see this waterfall completely frozen. If you’re able, be sure to hike the 1.5-mile Brandywine Gorge Loop to experience more stunning views of the waterfall and explore the venereal pools this spring! This is a 1.5-mile loop hike with a 160-foot elevation change taking you into the gorge, over a footbridge over the creek, and back up the other side. We recommend doing this one early or late in the day to avoid the midday crowds. With such a unique viewing experience, this is a great waterfall to visit year round!
We couldn’t be more excited to get outside and explore this spring! Check out our list of waterfalls to chase across the national parks.