Are you also a seeker of adventure? Are you looking for your next thrilling experience? Look no further than California.
It is an exotic place for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Do you love chasing waterfalls? The magnificent waterfalls of California are going to take your breath away.
The beauty of waterfalls lies not only in the never-ending cascade but also in the clouds of mist and scenic beauty that engulf them. These awe-inspiring waterfalls of California are a must-see on anybody’s bucket list.
If you are confused about whether to start from the stunning Yosemite or the hidden gem McWay, this article will help you plan your itinerary.
This article will provide a list of the 25 best waterfalls in California and some inside information on how to make the most of your time at the falls. So, prepare yourself for the adventure!
Table of Contents
One of the most popular attractions in Yosemite National Park is the Yosemite Falls. It is so popular it draws visitors from around the world.
This magnificent waterfall is one of the tallest in the world and allows visitors stunning views of the valley below.
Yosemite Falls is three waterfalls in one. It makes up for a total of more than 2,400 feet of fall.
The best time to visit Yosemite Falls is in the spring when the cascade is thickest. The snowmelt is at its peak after winter, and it makes for the most impressive waterfall displays.
If you’re looking for a quieter experience, visit in the fall when the leaves change colors.
Hiking trails help you have a closer look at the falls. The Yosemite Valley Shuttle provides easy access to the trailheads.
McWay Falls is a hidden gem in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along the Big Sur coast. The falls drop off a granite cliff 80 feet above the ground onto a sandy beach.
Visitors can relax and take in the stunning picture postcard scenery while sunbathing on the beach.
The turquoise water and lush greenery surrounding the falls make for a picture-perfect scene.
The best time to visit McWay Falls is during the winter and spring when the water flow is at its peak.
However, the falls are accessible year-round. There is no direct access to the beach or the falls, but you can still get great views from the overlook on California Highway 1. For a closer and unobstructed view, you will have to hike along the short McWay Falls Overlook Trail.
The walk to the waterfall is just a 0.5-mile round trip, one of the easiest!
Burney Falls is located in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in northeastern California.
The water cascades in a curtain-like fashion from a height of 129 feet and presents a mesmerizing display for the onlookers.
The best time to visit Burney Falls is spring and early summer. Why?
Because the snowmelt is at its peak and the waterfalls are at a magnificent speed and strength. However, the falls are accessible 12 months a year.
To avoid crowds, you can choose to visit the falls in the wee hours or at dusk.
There are picnic areas for visitors to relax and enjoy.
The easy to moderate hikers can take up the Burney Falls Loop Trail, which takes you through an overlook point above the falls to, finally, the foot of the falls.
Alamere Falls is a hidden gem. It is located in the Phillip Burton Wilderness Area, which forms a part of Point Reyes National Seashore and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
The waterfall cascades down a 40-foot cliff onto a sandy Wildcat beach, creating a unique and beautiful scene.
The best time to visit Alamere Falls is during the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom and the flow is full. The flowers create a colorful backdrop to the falls.
The trail is approximately 13 miles round trip from Palomarin, the closest trailhead. It is recommended to start early in the day to avoid hiking in the dark as the trailhead comprises minimal to no amenities, and visitors must come prepared.
Feather Falls is located in the Plumas National Forest and stands 410 feet tall, making it one of the tallest and best waterfalls in California.
The best time to visit Feather Falls is during the spring when the snowmelt is at its peak. The fall creates a dramatic sight during his time.
The trail to the falls is approximately 9 miles round trip and is rated moderate. The hike offers incredible views of Bald Rock Dome and Bald Rock Canyon.
Vernal and Nevada Falls
Vernal and Nevada Falls are located in Yosemite National Park. The two waterfalls are part of the popular Mist Trail, also called the Giant Staircase, which offers hikers a challenging but rewarding experience.
The best time to visit Vernal and Nevada Falls is in the spring when the snowmelt is at its peak, creating a more impressive display.
On most trails, you walk alongside the falls, so you can expect a good drenching from the spray.
The Mist Trail can be challenging, especially in wet conditions. The beginning 0.8-mile hike will take you to a foot bridge for a beautiful view of Vernal Fall. You can continue for a wonderful view of Emerald Pool and Silver Apron and then to Nevada Fall.
The Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall can also be reached via John Muir Trail.
Horsetail Falls is located in the El Dorado National Forest. It flows over the face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley and offers stunning views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The waterfall is known for its unique firefall effect, which occurs in February when the setting sun illuminates the falls, making it appear as if it’s on fire.
Hence, the best time to visit Horsetail Falls is in February when the Firefall effect occurs.
The waterfall experiences a crowded phase during this time of the year, and the authorities often impose parking restrictions at the site.
The trail to the falls is approximately 3 miles round trip and can be challenging. The visitors are advised to go prepared for the trail.
The waterfall is a group of three waterfalls that drops from McCloud River as it makes its way through a basalt canyon.
The three falls are divided into lower, middle, and upper falls. The lower falls have a lot of picnic areas for visitors, and they are also allowed to swim in the lower and middle falls.
However, jumping is not advised as there are submerged boulders, which can prove fatal.
You will have to hike to get a closer view of the falls. The first 0.7 mile of the trail, up to the middle falls, is flat and easy to navigate.
If you are not a hiker, you can drive to the overlooks for Middle and Upper Falls. However, there is no official access to the upper falls’ base.
This 620-foot fall is a super powerful waterfall that can be seen from Tunnel View, which is one of Yosemite National Park’s most famous viewpoints.
The flow of the fall is dense during spring and gentler during other times of the year, but the water flows year-round, and there is no dry season for the falls.
For an up-close view of the falls, you will be required to take a very short, easy trail. This trail will directly take you to the bottom of the falls, where you can experience the coldness of the mist on your face.
This area will likely experience rain during the spring; hence, it’s advisable to carry a raincoat and, better still, a waterproof jacket.
Rainbow Falls is a part of Devil’s Postpile National Monument and falls from 101 feet. The waterfall got its name from the lovely rainbows formed due to the mist on bright sunny days.
The middle fork of the San Joaquin River forms this waterfall.
Rainbow Falls is divided into the upper and lower falls and can be visited through an easy-to-moderate 4-mile trail.
However, you will have to take the mandatory shuttle from Mammoth Lakes to Red Meadows during the summer. At other times you can drive to the Red Meadows parking lot.
Escondido Falls boasts of a wonderful waterfall hike, making it as much about the journey as the destination.
The strength of the flow depends on the rainfall received by the area.
The best time to enjoy the hike along the Winding Way trail definitely has to be the spring season, as it is during this time that the trail is full of wildflowers in full bloom.
The trail is not officially sanctioned beyond the Lower Falls. However, experienced hikers can go up the base or top of the upper falls.
Kings Creek Falls
This waterfall resides in the heart of one of California’s lesser visited National parks, i.e., Lassen Volcanic National Park.
The water drops from a height of 30 feet and makes for a spectacular view.
The 3-mile trail is rated moderate as the return is via a steep stone staircase.
If you are visiting in the spring season, you can expect to see meadows full of wildflowers.
Proper hiking gear is advised to be taken along with you as the trail can be challenging sometimes, especially during the rainy season.
Darwin Falls is on the western edge of Death Valley National Park, which is also one of the driest places on the planet.
It is a picturesque waterfall, just like other waterfalls in California. Lush green surroundings, rich vegetation, and a wet oasis make it an amazing sight in the desert.
The waterfall can be accessed via a 2-mile round-trip hike. The hike is relatively easy as the elevation is not more than 300 feet.
One can reach the trailhead via an unmarked road about one mile west of Panamint Springs Resort.
This waterfall is located between Arcadia and Sierra Madre. It is only 50-60 feet tall and is as picturesque as it gets.
It is a year-round flowing waterfall which is a rare sight in SoCal. The area around this fall provides a wonderful escape to people who want to escape the scorching heat.
The hike starts from a Trailhead Chantry and is considered very easy. It is only 3.2 miles long.
To go for a hike here, you don’t have to leave behind your furry friend. Your paw friend will be welcome as long as he is on a leash.
Eagle Falls drops approximately 170 feet and is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in California. It is located in Emerald Bay State Park on the western shore of Lake Tahoe.
The waterfall provides a scenic view of towering pine trees, vibrant wildflowers, and rich wildlife.
Eagle Falls trail is a moderate 2-mile round trip hike and the only way to reach the waterfall’s base. The visitors can enjoy the scenic view during the hike.
Other than outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, boating, and kayaking on the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe, visitors can explore the historic Vikingsholm Castle.
The castle was built in 1929 and is a popular destination that draws visitors towards itself. The visitors can tour the castle and learn about its history and architecture.
The Whiskeytown waterfall is located in the Whiskeytown National Recreation area near Redding. This waterfall was discovered in 2004.
It is a three-level waterfall and drops from a height of 220 feet. James K. Carr trail leads to the falls. The trail is challenging, with an elevation gain of about 700 feet and 3.4 miles round trip. It is also dotted with steep sections as it makes its way through the coniferous forest.
To access an upper viewing platform, you can climb stairs from the waterfall’s base.
Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek waterfall is located in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. The waterfall drops approximately 25 feet into a crystal-clear pool below.
The waterfall is surrounded by lush vegetation and rock formation. That is one of the reasons why it is a chosen place for hiking and photography.
Visitors can enjoy the abundant wildlife, discover hidden waterfalls, and enjoy scenic beauty.
Cedar Creek is known to be the home of Native American tribes but was later turned into a settlement for European immigrants. The historic Cedar Creek Grist mill, built in 1875, is still operational and is open to visitors and tourists.
Potem Creek Falls
Potem Creek falls from a height of 70 feet and into a very beautiful swimming hole. This beautiful waterfall is located in the Shasta Lake National Recreation Area of Shasta trinity national forest and is one of the best waterfalls in California.
The flow of the fall is the strongest in spring, but the best time to visit the fall is summer or early fall.
You can enjoy the sun and then cool off in the pool.
The hike to the fall is only a 0.6-mile round trip and is very easy.
Grizzly Falls is located in Sequoia national forest and can be viewed from Generals Highway. This highway connects Sequoia National Park and King Canyon National Park.
The walk to the fall is only 01. Mile round trip. This short trail takes you from the Grizzly Falls picnic area to the base of the fall.
The waterfall’s flow is at its peak during the spring and early summer.
The fall is inaccessible, and the roads are blocked during winter.
Brandy Creek Falls
Brandytown Waterfall is located in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. The fall of the water is in five tiers.
The trail to the falls is moderate and gains an elevation of 2000 feet. It is not very long and covers 3 miles round trip.
If you are adventurous, you can find yourself at the top of the falls using footholds carved into the rock face.
Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Falls is located in the Los Padres National Forest in Big Sur. It drops off a cliff from a height of 120 feet.
The hike to the falls is short and easy, only a 0.6-mile round trip.
The falls are split at the top, but then they rejoin and create only one cascade.
The trail will directly take you to the base of the falls but beware, as the narrow trail is dotted with poison oak along the way.
Mossbrae is one of the most beautiful and picturesque falls in California. It is located in the Shasta Cascade area near Dunsmuir.
It is 175 feet wide and falls from a height of 52 feet.
There is no official and legal trail to the falls, but the Hedge Creek Falls trail is being developed and extended to provide safe access to Mossbrae.
It is another of Yosemite’s natural wonders. Illilouette Falls can be viewed easily from the Panorama trail.
The waterfall has a viscous flow during spring and early summer.
The hike to the viewing point for the falls and back along the Panorama
The trail is 4 miles. The hike is difficult as you first descend 1200 feet and then climb back up.
The end of the trail provides a beautiful view of pretty creeks and a picnic spot for you to relax and have a quiet time in the lap of nature.
Tokopah Falls tumbles 1200 feet to the bottom. It is formed by the Kaweah River and is at its fullest during spring. The fall looks its best during the flow season.
The trail is easy and full of breathtaking sights. It is about 4 miles round trip and gradually elevates 530 feet.
Crystal Creek Falls
Located in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area near Redding. It is a man-made fall created by diverting Trinity River into Whiskeytown Lake.
The fall is full during spring but slowly becomes sedate as summer approaches. The small swimming hole at the base of the falls makes it all the more beautiful.
The hike is only a 0.5-mile round trip and is paved, which makes it more accessible and easy.
Hedge Creek Falls
It is an attractive waterfall located in the Shasta Cascade Area.
The waterfall can be easily accessed after a short hike which is only a 0.6-mile round trip. The small cave behind the waterfall is very famous among hikers.
The trailhead starts from a place near Interstate 5.
These were the handpicked and best waterfalls in California that you could explore on your next adventure. In addition to making blood rush through your veins, these breathtaking sights can make your heart sing in unison with the song of nature.