- Top 10 Best California Waterfalls
- Visit this waterfall
- 12 Best Waterfall Hikes in Northern California
- 1. Crystal Creek Falls
- 2. Yosemite Falls
- 3. Glen Alpine Falls
- 4. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls
- 5. Cataract Falls
- 6. Feather Falls
- 7. Hedge Creek Falls
- 8. Potem Falls
- 9. Berry Creek Falls
- 10. Burney Falls
- 11. Mist Falls
- 12. Alamere Falls
- 15 Amazing Waterfalls in California
- 1. Yosemite
- 2. Brandy Creek
- 3. Alamere Falls
- 4. Mcway Falls
- 5. Escondido Waterfall
- 6. Cedar Creek
- 7. Roaring rivers
- 8. Vernal Falls
- 9. Feather Falls
- 11. Kings Creek Falls
- 12. Grizzly Falls
- 13. Canyon Creek Falls
- 14. Eaton Canyon Falls
- 15. Marble Falls
Top 10 Best California Waterfalls
Our Top 10 Best California Waterfalls List was long overdue as we had been refraining from coming up with this list until we felt we had enough of a sampling for an exposé this to be legitimate.
Well, now that this page is finally here after all these years, we can truly showcase the best waterfalls that we’ve encountered in the Golden State.
Where does this waterfall reside on our Top 10 Best Waterfalls of California List?
True to our standard of coming up with these lists, we only include waterfalls that we’ve personally experienced.
We’re also not making any stipulations or special rules. Thus, the waterfalls of Yosemite National Park can dominate this list if it happens to end up that way.
That said, we recognize that picking just 10 waterfalls hundreds in our library of experiences was a very tall order.
So many deserving waterfalls had to be left off the list. Yet it’s this exclusivity that we feel makes this list truly legitimate and straight from the heart. Case in point, we’ve had to leave off quality waterfalls Grouse Falls, Tokopah Falls, and the Yosemite snubs ( Ribbon Falls, Cascade Falls, and Chilnualna Falls) among others.
We also have a comprehensive listing of waterfalls in California. So you can see that page for a full list of all the waterfalls in the state that we’ve been to and provided write-ups for.
Nevertheless, without further ado, we’re proud to present our list of the best California Waterfalls in reverse order…
This waterfall was really at least three major waterfalls on the McCloud River – each with its own distinct character.
The Middle Falls, which you see in the picture, was the most photogenic with its expansive width and forceful flow.
The Lower Falls was short and stocky, but it was also the most popular one. It had plenty of spots for families to cool off and beat the Summer heat. Meanwhile, the more daring types did cliff dives into the falls’ deep plunge pool.
Then, there was the quiet Upper Falls which featured cascades further upstream as well as its main inaccessible plunging drop.
In addition to the aforementioned waterfalls, we also managed to get views of Mt Shasta as well as birdseye views of the McCloud River and surrounding area.
There was some tight competition just to even make this list. But it’s the diversity of activities along with its aesthetics that allowed this waterfall to just nudge onto this list of the best California Waterfalls.
Visit this waterfall
This classically-shaped block waterfall was one of those waterfalls that we tended to visit repeatedly over the years. And with each visit, we’ve seen this place in different lighting, different flows, and with different atmosphere.
This rare year-round performer, where the San Joaquin River plunged vertically some 101ft, stood the test of time. It had never disappointed us on our visits.
Adding to its already scenic allure was its accessibiilty. This was especially the case on those hot Summer days when whole families look for beautiful spots this to cool off and have fun. We definitely witnessed this in action in our visits.
Other nearby waterfalls further added to the experience. There was the quieter Lower Falls to escape the crowds. Then, there was the lesser known Minaret Falls which shared the same trailhead as the enigmatic Devil’s Postpile formation. Plus, there was the easily-accessible Sotcher Lake, which was said to have its own little waterfall.
As if that wasn’t enough, this area was also the launching point for longer overnight backpacking or mule rides to the High Sierra backcountry, including the scenic Thousand Island Lake.
Indeed, with so much to see and do in such a relatively small area, we just had to include Rainbow Falls on this list of the best California Waterfalls.
12 Best Waterfall Hikes in Northern California
When it comes to chasing waterfalls, you'd be hard-pressed to find a region in North America more prolific than Northern California. From a sheer numbers perspective, the place is home to an essentially inexhaustible supply of bucket list contenders.
But it's not just the amount of waterfalls you'll find; it's the staggering variety. Along the rugged coast, there are tidefalls that cascade off of sea bluffs and spill into the ocean.
Farther inland, deep within the old-growth forests of Shasta County, splendorous 100-foot cascades drop into exotic emerald pools. In the venerable Yosemite National Park, you'll find one of the tallest tiered waterfalls in the world.
To sum it up, it's a waterfall lover's paradise, and while it’s not easy to narrow them down, these 12 will offer a solid start.
1. Crystal Creek Falls
The trailhead to Crystal Creek is ADA compliant, perfect for someone with limited mobility. Don DeBold
Just 10 miles from Redding, Crystal Creek Falls is the perfect intro to Northern California waterfalls.
From the parking lot in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, you’ll take the paved, level path to a well-maintained picnic area—the falls are just beyond that. Bonus: the trailhead is adjacent to the start of the James K.
Carr Trail, which you can take to the nearby Whiskeytown Falls.
2. Yosemite Falls
You can't visit Yosemite and not visit the falls! John Tregoning
No tour of California’s waterfall offerings would be complete without a trip to the tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite Falls cascades 2,245 feet from top to bottom, and its upper falls are among the highest waterfalls in the world. It’s a strenuous 7.
2-mile hike all the way to the top, or a moderate two miles to the viewpoint at Columbia Rock.
3. Glen Alpine Falls
It's only a one-mile hike to the Glen Alpine Waterfall, but it's quiet and secluded.
Ready for a respite from the crowd? Glen Alpine Falls, just outside South Lake Tahoe, is tucked the way, and the one-mile roundtrip hike gets you up close and personal with the 30-foot cascade.
To extend your hike, pick up a permit at the Glen Alpine Trailhead and wander up the backside of Mt. Tallac or into the Desolation Wilderness.
4. Devil’s Punchbowl Falls
At just 14 feet, this waterfall is diminutive compared to giants Yosemite Falls, but it packs a big, well, punch. The 1.2-mile hike to Devil’s Punchbowl begins just outside Angwin.
Getting to the top of the falls is easy, but getting to the base (and swimming hole) requires more effort and some agility to negotiate a stream crossing.
This cascade is best seen right after a heavy rain, when the water really gets flowing.
5. Cataract Falls
Get views of waterfalls and the Pacific Ocean on the 7.7-mile trail to Cataract Falls.
Marin County is home to more than 500 miles of trails, so it’s really saying something that the trail to Cataract Falls is among the most beloved. A 7.
7-mile loop hike brings you to Cataract Falls, where you will also find sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean—or you can check out the falls on a shorter 2.7-mile out-and-back hike.
6. Feather Falls
Recently measured at 410 feet (instead of 640 feet), Feather Falls may not be one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States, but it’s still worth the trek.
Along the trail is a refreshing swimming hole (near Frey Creek), and the hike through Plumas National Forest, near Oroville, boasts incredible views. The Upper Trail is a moderate nine miles, while the lower trail is a strenuous seven miles.
Feather Falls reaches peak flow between January and June, then slows down from July through October.
7. Hedge Creek Falls
Just outside the tiny town of Dunsmuir, Hedge Creek Falls earned its nickname, the «Million-Dollar Waterfall,» when it was nearly destroyed by rerouting of I-5. Fortunately, the falls—and the million-dollar views of Mt.
Shasta and the Sacramento River—are still intact. This 30-foot waterfall flows in front of a cave once rumored to be the hide Black Bart, a notorious 19th-century stagecoach robber.
It’s less than a mile to the falls and the breathtaking views.
8. Potem Falls
You can get to the gorgeous Potem Falls on foot or by boat. rubengarciajrphotography
Potem in Latin means «to drink,» and although the gorgeous 45-foot falls into the Pit River near Montgomery Creek are tempting, there’s no potable water along the trail, so you’ll have to bring plenty of your own. The waterfall is accessible via an easy 0.3-mile trail or by boat.
9. Berry Creek Falls
If you want to work for your waterfall view, take the trail to Berry Creek. Miguel Vieira
The strenuous 9.
5-mile hike through Big Basin Redwoods State Park on the Skyline to the Sea and Sunset Trails to Berry Creek Falls is totally worth the effort, winding through old-growth redwood trees on the way to the main attraction.
Berry Creek actually encompasses four gorgeous, cascading waterfalls, including the aptly-named Silver Falls and Golden Cascade.
10. Burney Falls
You don't even have to leave the parking lot to see Burney Falls.
Once described by Teddy Roosevelt as «the Eighth Wonder of the World,» Burney Falls makes an incredible picnic spot—views of the 129-foot falls, the centerpiece of McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, are accessible right from the parking lot. A 1.3-mile trail circles the cascade, which begins in underground springs further inside the park.
11. Mist Falls
Mist Falls is a must-see if you are in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The jointly administered Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are home to glaciated canyons, tons of alpine lakes, and, of course, the namesake giant sequoia trees, but they also contain some incredible waterfalls.
The hike to Mist Falls, one of the largest in the parks, is eight miles round-trip, and you’ll gain most of the elevation (600 feet) in the last mile before the falls.
12. Alamere Falls
The unique falls at Alamere pour directly into the Pacific Ocean.
A visit to Alamere Falls on Point Reyes National Seashore, deep in the Phillip Burton Wilderness, is no easy feat—it’s 13 miles round-trip.
The park recommends hiking to Wildcat Campground, then heading to Alamere via Wildcat Beach at low tide. Alamere is special because of its status as a tidefall, meaning it falls directly into the ocean.
Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated.
15 Amazing Waterfalls in California
When it comes to waterfalls, there is no region in America more prolific than California. If you look at it from a numbers-only perspective, the state is home to an inexhaustible supply of contenders. But it’s not just about the number of waterfalls, it’s the astounding variety.
Along the coastline, you will find tide falls cascading off sea bluffs. Inland – deep within old-growth forests – splendorous cascades drop into scenic pools. While it’s not easy to sum up this waterfall lover’s paradise, these 15 will give a solid start.
Source: A.Hornung / shutterstock
With a total drop of over 2000 feet, the Yosemite fall is the tallest in the US. It falls over the Upper, then down to the Lower Yosemite Falls, before joining the Merced River.
It has many impressive viewpoints from the park and from the Lower Falls trail. The four-mile trail, Taft Point, and Glacier Point give an elevated perspective, while the Yosemite Falls Overlook offers an up-close experience.
Yosemite Falls are at their best during the spring snowmelt.
Hike Distance: 4 miles
Location: Yosemite National Park
2. Brandy Creek
Source: Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / shutterstock
Brandy Creek Falls
A crisp, cool summer getaway hike through the Whiskeytown shade and forest leads to five separate pools and multiple waterfall sections that form the Brandy Creek.
It offers a very unique waterfall experience and a variety of falls in a nicely wrapped package. Water drops 25 feet to the pool, then a smaller cascade drops into the pool below that. The creek then plunges down almost 100 feet.
The trail has great views of the fall and is well worth the 1.5-mile hike. It is a bit of a trek as it is mostly uphill.
Hike Distance: 1.5 miles
3. Alamere Falls
Source: Ryan Kelehar / shutterstock
Buried deep inside the Phillip Burton Wilderness is this rare tidefall. It falls from a cliff about 30 feet tall above Wildcat Beach. Though tough, the eight-mile round-trip is quite rewarding, with amazing views of Point Reyes National Seashore, several lakes, forests, and the fall.
It starts at Palomarin Trailhead, heading north through a small forest before opening up to expansive coastal views. It then turns inland, heading uphill through a forest, passing a series of lakes. On the Alamere falls cliff, there are two smaller pools with excellent views.
Amazing photos can be taken from the beach.
Hike Distance: 4 Miles
Location: Wildcat Beach
4. Mcway Falls
Source: Mark R / shutterstock
The McWay Falls forms in a very iconic location along the Big Sur coastline. This 80-foot cascade sits in a scenic cove, in a perfect position to see where the sky meets the ocean. The quarter-mile picturesque walk starts at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and goes through an underground tunnel.
As you wind along the cliffside on the railing-protected trail, there are a number of great views of the cove and falls. The trail ends at the Waterfall House. At high tide, the water makes direct contact with incoming waves, while at low tide, it falls on the beach and flows all the way to the ocean.
Hike Distance: 0.5 Miles
Location: Big Sur
5. Escondido Waterfall
Source: Kevan O'Meara / shutterstock
Escondido Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains and has one of the best hikes.
The relatively easy two-mile hike takes you from the rush of the Pacific Coast Highway to the calm 100-foot waterfall, tucked into a lush oak canyon.
It starts along the Winding Way Road, veering into a canyon and crossing a creek a couple of times before arriving. The cascade has three tiers, one easy to access and two that aren’t. It is seasonal, so at its best after a rainy season.
Hike Distance: 2 miles
Location: Santa Monica Mountains
6. Cedar Creek
Source: Jimmy W / shutterstock
This 80-foot breathtaking waterfall plummets down into a swimming hole called the Devils Punchbowl. The three-mile hike goes through the Chaparral hills and is fairly strenuous, as it is all downhill.
As you descend into the valley, the temperature rises by about ten degrees, so you should be prepared. There is, however, a shaded area where you can cool off.
There is no diving or cliff jumping, but swimming is allowed.
Height: 90 Feet
Hike Distance: 4 Miles
Location: Near Ramona City
7. Roaring rivers
Source: Alisa_Ch / shutterstock
Kings Canyon National Park, Roaring Falls
The Roaring River drops gradually in elevation as it flows from south to north through Kings Canyon National Park.
It then feeds into the south of the King’s River, but not before making one final drop through the Roaring River Falls. Access is very easy, requiring only a short walk from a paved trail from Highway 180.
For this reason, it is a popular stop for visitors to Kings Canyon. However, it can only be accessed when Highway 180 is open.
Hike Distance: 0.3 Miles
Location: Kings Canyon National Park
8. Vernal Falls
Source: Roel Slootweg / shutterstock
Vernal falls make up the lower step of the Giant Staircase and drops over 30 feet. Its trail starts at Happy Isles Trailhead, going along the banks of the Merced River.
It rises gradually up the canyon as you head to the Vernal Falls Bridge, where you get the first view of the falls. Once you are past the bridge, you follow the Mist Trail toward the base of Vernal Falls, where you ascend a steep staircase to an open slab over the falls.
You can soak in the amazing views and/or explore the Silver Apron Are or the Emerald pool. Swimming is not allowed.
Height: 200 Feet
Hike Distance: 3 Mile
Location: Yosemite National Park
9. Feather Falls
Source: ray_explores / Flickr
Standing tall at over 600 feet, Feather Falls is among the tallest in the United States. Its hike is the best way you can spend an afternoon, taking you through amazing canyon views, Native American history, wildflowers and, ultimately, the massive waterfall.
There are two trail options, which you pick time and difficulty. You can opt to take one of the two to and fro, or make it a loop. The 4.5-mile trail is fairly easy and goes through old-growth forests. The 3.
5-mile trail is more complicated and offers beautiful views of the Bald Rock Canyon and Dome.
Hike Distance: 4.5/3.5 miles
Location: Plumas National Forest
11. Kings Creek Falls
Source: Julie Vader / shutterstock
Kings Creek Falls
King’s Creek is very popular with photographers and hikers a. This beautiful waterway begins lazily as a small, meandering stream at the base of Lassen Park, then transforms into a crashing waterfall.
You will have to choose from one of two trails to hike to the fall – the horse loop and the Cascade Trail.
The horse loop is longer and less steep, with great views, while the Cascade Trail is steeper and goes down rocky steps and through boulders. It offers great views of the Cascades.
Hike Distance: 3 Mile
Location: Lassen National Park
12. Grizzly Falls
Source: Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / shutterstock
Located west of Kings Canyon National Park, Grizzly Falls is a breathtaking cascade and picnic area where Grizzly Creek flows into Kings River. This area offers a picturesque stretch of the wild river and a great relaxing spot.
The water flows from Grizzly Lake and falls 80 feet below the cliff. The lake area is a great camping spot and offers an aerial view of the 2000-foot granite wall that holds in the lake. The hike is pretty short, around 0.1 miles.
Hike Distance: 0.1 miles
Location: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA
13. Canyon Creek Falls
Source: Tasha Karidis / shutterstock
Canyon Creek Falls
Once you have witnessed the beauty of the Canyon Creek Falls, you will easily see why it is a very popular backpacking and hiking destination. This cascade is sometimes missed by travelers who mistake the smaller falls along the trail for it.
During summer, you may see or hear more than five waterfalls from the trail. During early summer or late spring, this watershed is home to more than 50 waterfalls.
The lack of an official trail complicates your search; you will need to scramble through the thicket to reach its magnificence.
Hike Distance: 4.9 miles
Location: Trinity Alps Wilderness
14. Eaton Canyon Falls
Source: Kit Leong / shutterstock
Eaton Canyon Falls
This pleasant, year-round waterfall is located just outside Pasadena, making it a popular local attraction. The trail starts at Eaton Canyon Nature Center, through an open area, before following the east bank straight into the mouth of the gorge.
It goes past a bridge and follows the stream, crossing it a couple of times. About half a mile into the canyon, the trail ends at the Eaton Canyon Falls. If you have extra time, the Eaton Canyon Nature Center is full of the area’s natural history.
Hike Distance: 4 Miles
Location: Angeles National Forest
15. Marble Falls
Source: Arseniy Bokov / shutterstock
Marble Falls Trail
The Marble Falls Trail is a wonderful hike, open year-round. It starts from Potwisha Campground, commencing along a service road past the Marble Falls sign. During April and May, the trail is blanketed with beautiful flowers.
It proceeds uphill through Chaparral, increasing in elevation with every step before leveling out near the falls. The river is powerful and wide, and the water drops 70 feet into a pool below.
The trail goes past the falls, ending on a white marble slab, with amazing views of the fall.
Hike Distance: 4 Miles
Location: Sequoia National Park
Where to stay: Best Hotels in California (CA)