If you’ve ever taken a hike in the California wilderness, chances are you’ve seen some of the most beautiful waterfalls on earth. Some say that they rival even those found in Yosemite Valley! These high-spirited cascades are everywhere–in mountain ranges like the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges, along rivers like the Sacramento River, and at low elevations among rocky outcroppings near sea level. So even if you don’t have your hiking boots on, there’s no need to miss out on these natural wonders: this article will show them to you from every angle, revealing their height, width, depth, beauty, and power.
1. Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and the sixth-highest in the world. The falls consist of a 492-foot upper fall, a 320-foot middle cascades section, and a 104 foot lower fall. Yosemite Valley was formed by glaciers moving through the Merced River Gorge during the last ice age, which also helped sculpt Half Dome and El Capitan. It is believed that these towering rock formations help trap moisture coming off of these waterfalls like giant sponges–a phenomenon known as “fog drip”–which helps to make them flow year-round.
2. Silver Strand Falls
Silver Strand Falls might be one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away in a small canyon on the south side of San Clemente Island, these waterfalls pour down the face of a volcanic dike. The falls run year-round and are best viewed from the Silver Strand trail in the Channel Islands National Park.
3. McWay Falls
McWay Falls is located near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, California–a dramatic stretch along U.S. 101 that meanders through towering redwood trees and rocky coastal bluffs overlooking crashing waves below. This 80-foot waterfall is said to be one-of-a-kind; it flows directly into the ocean! This photo makes you wonder what it would be like to jump right off (just kidding).
4. Silver Fall
This gorgeous fall is located in the San Bernardino Mountains, which towers over the Inland Empire and Orange County regions of Southern California. While most people have seen it from afar as they drive up Highway 330 (also known as “the mountain”), there’s a secret way to see this waterfall up close: by taking the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead off of Highway 38. It is one of the highest waterfalls in Southern California at 90 feet high.
5. Cachuma Falls
Cachuma Falls can be found along Highway 154, about 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, CA, on the way to Lake Cachuma Recreation Area–home to a fantastic dune lake! This waterfall flows all year round and sometimes even doubles in size during the rainy season. The waterfall comprises two separate waterfalls: Lower Cachuma Falls, which stands at 50 feet high, and Upper Cachuma Falls, which stands at 70 feet.
6. Sabino Creek Waterfall
Located just off I-10 near Tucson, AZ, you will find Sabino Canyon–Arizona’s most visited wilderness preserve! This stunning waterfall is known as the “crown jewel” among the scores of trails found here; it flows year-round and sometimes swells to double its size during monsoon season (July – September). You can catch a glimpse of it as you drive through Sabino Canyon on your way to Colossal Cave Mountain Park or Bear Canyon.
7. Ribbon Fall
Ribbon Fall is the tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park and the third highest in North America, falling 2,425 feet. It is located on the north side of El Capitan and can be reached via a strenuous 9-mile roundtrip hike from Glacier Point Trail–which includes over 3,000 feet of elevation gain! The best time to view this unique waterfall is during springtime snowmelt or after the fall’s first autumn rains–which makes for some pretty epic photos if you ask me!
8. Bridalveil Fall
Bridalveil Fall flows year-round–even during winters when it sometimes freezes into icy columnar towers called “frozen falls.” Bridalveil Fall flows from a hanging valley above Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park and stands 620 feet tall. This is how it looks in the late summer after the spring runoff has subsided.
9. Havasu Falls
Located near Grand Canyon Village just outside the South Rim, this gorgeous waterfall’s blue-green waters drop 100 feet into a pristine pool below–a welcome sight for tired hikers! Havasu Falls flows year-round but reaches peak volume during monsoon season (July – September).
10. Mossbrae Falls
Mossbrae Falls is found within Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Northern California; it is one of many waterfalls which can be seen via the park’s official Waterfall Loop Trail (off of Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail). This photo was taken in April, shortly after the spring snowmelt.
11. Silver Creek Falls
Located just past the town of Silverton near the Salt Creek Recreation Area, this gorgeous waterfall flows year-round and reaches its peak volume during monsoon season (July-November). You can catch a glimpse of it as you drive through Silverton on your way to visit other nearby waterfalls such as Upper Salt Creek Falls and Lower South Falls. *Be careful during monsoon season as many hikers get trapped by sudden flash floods here! 12. Yosemite Fall
Yosemite Fall is one of three waterfalls that make up Yosemite National Park; it stands at 2,425 feet high and flows from the eastern side of Yosemite Valley. This particular photo was taken in September after an autumn rainstorm had subsided: I highly recommend visiting this waterfall during autumn as it looks incredibly stunning when the surrounding meadows are full of colorful wildflowers!
13. Vasey’s Paradise
Vasey’s Paradise is a hidden waterfall tucked away within the depths of Northern California’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park–it can be found along the North Fork Trail near the town of Orick. This gorgeous cascade flows year-round but reaches peak volume during the monsoon season (July – October). Vasey’s Paradise is only one of many waterfalls hidden within this particular forest; there are dozens more that can be seen via trails such as Fern Canyon, Big Tree, and Drury Scenic Parkway. *Remember to stay on designated trails here to avoid accidentally trampling plants and wildlife!
14. Pfeiffer Falls
Pfeiffer Falls is a waterfall tucked away within Big Sur’s Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park; it can be viewed from its official Waterfall Loop Trail (accessible via McWay Creek). Pfeiffer Falls flows year-round but reaches peak volume during autumn and winter storms–it is best to visit this waterfall during late spring and summer when water levels are lower.
15. Yosemite Creek
Yosemite Creek is one of many gorgeous waterfalls hidden within Yosemite National Park; it can be found just east of El Capitan off of North Side Drive. This particular photo was taken in September, correcting the autumn rains: I highly recommend visiting Yosemite Creek during autumn as it looks incredibly stunning when the surrounding meadows are full of colorful wildflowers!
Waterfalls in California are a beautiful natural resource. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the beauty of these waterfalls without getting wet, there’s no better option than going hiking! Whether you want to take on one of the trails mentioned above or do some research and find your hidden waterfall, this is an activity that will leave you refreshed and relaxed–plus, it’ll give you something else to brag about when people ask what cool things have been happening lately.