The Most Gorgeous Waterfall in Every State
Can a bucket list have 50 entries? Your’s may soon have a few more after you check out these top beauties all around the country.
Alabama: Caney Creek Falls
Located in Bankhead National Forest in northern Alabama, this waterfall gently cascades down into a picture-perfect swimming hole. The trail to reach it is a fairly easy 1.5-mile hike, but the passage down into the mossy canyon can be slippery, so hikers will need to use caution. The waterfall is beautiful year-round, but particularly during high water periods, when a second fall appears to the right of the main flow, adding to the spot’s beauty. Here’s more that you need to know about the world’s most incredible waterfalls.
Alaska: Nugget Falls
Juneau’s iconic waterfall cascades down the mountainside next to Mendenhall Glacier. Watching the rushing water merge into iceberg-filled Mendenhall Lake is a once-in-a-lifetime sight. (Check out more breathtaking waterfall pictures and coastal views.) Along the easy gravel trail from the visitor’s center, keep an eye out for wildlife including bears, mountain goats, beavers, and bald eagles. At the end of the trail, you can walk right up to the fall’s base and feel the mist on your face.
Arizona: Havasu Falls
One of the most beautiful natural pools in the world, the Grand Canyon’s Havasu Falls is also one of the hardest to get to. Located on land administered by the Havasupai Tribe (“people of the blue-green water”), who’ve lived there for over a thousand years, Havasu Falls requires a reservation, at least one overnight camping stay, and a 10-mile trek through the desert. But swimming in the turquoise pool at the bottom of the falls, which plunges nearly 100 feet, is worth the effort. Due to concerns over the condition of pack horses, you may want to carry your own gear.
Arkansas: Twin Falls
Deep in the heart of Ozark National Forest, the Richland Creek area boasts some of Arkansas’ best scenery, including numerous waterfalls. As the name suggests, Twin Falls is a two-for-one. Located at the juncture where Long Devil’s Fork and Big Devil’s Fork meet—after heavy rains, the 20-foot falls are most beautiful, and the clear pool begs to be waded in. Getting there requires a fairly difficult hike along a poorly marked trail, but the surrounding area offers numerous other water features, including Richland Falls and Falling Water Falls.
California: Yosemite Falls
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Located in the spectacular Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yosemite Falls is the highlight of all the waterfalls in the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains. (Check out these other awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Sites everyone needs to visit.) This three-tiered, 2,425-foot national treasure is the park’s tallest waterfall, and one of the tallest in the world. If you want to see the water at peak flow, visit in the spring when winter snows are melting; if you wait until August you might only see a trickle. The falls are visible from different vantage points around the park. There are all-day hikes, including a path that’s wheelchair accessible.
Colorado: Hanging Lake Falls
Call it Mother Nature’s infinity pool! The pristine blue-green water with tinkling falls on the edge of a cliff in Glenwood Canyon is one of the most beautiful spots in the state—but this one’s a look-but-don’t-touch. The shimmering beauty of the crystalline lake is the result of travertine deposits, and sustaining the fragile ecosystem requires that visitors not dip even a finger in the waters. A short but steep and rocky one-mile climb will bring you to the falls, but don’t stop there. A bit further down the path, another waterfall called Spouting Rock emerges straight out of a hole in the rock face. Also worth a visit to Colorado: Rifle Gap and Rifle Falls.
Connecticut: Kent Falls
This quaint waterfall in western Connecticut is a series of cascades that flows gently down a mountain stream. Hike to the top, or have a picnic on the grassy expanse of lawn near the bottom of the falls. The spot is gorgeous year-round, whether you come for summer heat relief, the autumn foliage, or the ice-covered falls that form in winter. (See more of America’s prettiest winter towns.)
Delaware: Brandywine Creek Falls
Low-lying Delaware doesn’t have many large falls, but you can find some very pretty small ones along Brandywine Creek, which runs from the Delaware River in the Wilmington area to Pennsylvania. What these falls lack in height they make up for in length, spanning the length of the river. Tubing on the lazy Brandywine is also a popular summer pastime, but use caution near falls and faster-flowing water. Hikers will also want to check out northern Delaware’s White Clay Creek State Park.
Florida: Falling Waters State Park Falls
In the Florida panhandle lies the state’s tallest waterfall, which is also its most uniquely beautiful. The 73-foot falls in Falling Waters State Park plunges into a deep sinkhole, where the water disappears into an underground cavern—no one knows where it ends up. Boardwalks allow you to get close to the falls near where it hurtles over the top of the sink. Wait until after a heavy rainfall to see the falls at its finest. The park also offers 11 other sinkholes that are relatively stable, given they’re millions of years old. There’s also a campground and a lake for swimming and fishing. If you’re driving across state, don’t miss the oldest city in the US—that’s absolutely beautiful.
Georgia: Amicalola Falls
Near the southern start of the 2,000-mile long Appalachian trail tumbles Amicalola Falls, northern Georgia’s 730-foot tall cascade. (Amicalola actually means “tumbling waters” in Cherokee.) A series of staircases and boardwalks let hikers get close to, and even cross over, the magnificent waterfall. Approaches range from easy to difficult, so the whole family can enjoy the awesome sight. Camping, lodge accommodations, and even a back-country inn (accessible only by foot) provide lodging for visitors who want to stay the night. Hikers may also want to check out the waterfalls and great hiking at Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park.
Hawaii: Waimoku Falls
Hawaii is an island paradise that’s filled with incredible waterfalls, so it’s nearly impossible to pick a most gorgeous one, but Waimoku Falls near Maui’s fabled Road to Hana definitely ranks high on the list of idyllic spots. Rising toward the mountains (or “mauka” in Hawaiian) from the area known as the Seven Sacred Pools, the Pipiwai trail, considered the state’s best hike, follows the stream to Waimoku Falls. After passing other waterfalls along the way, you’ll reach the base of Waimoku, and can stare 400 feet up to the top. Falling rock can make it dangerous to get too close to the falls, though, so it’s best to admire its beauty from a safe distance. Another must-see in Hawaii: Wailua Falls.
Idaho: Fall Creek Falls
The roadside location of this picturesque 60-foot cascade makes Fall Creek Falls easy to view, and its many shallow pools make it a perfect spot for cooling off. The water descends into the Snake River, where kayaking, fishing, and wading to the small islands near the falls are also fun pastimes. Sunset and sunrise lend a lovely light to the surrounding valley. Tour Idaho’s wine country in Snake River Valley.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park Falls
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Hidden along the banks of the Illinois River is a series of canyons that comprise Starved Rock State Park, formed by melting glaciers thousands of years ago. Fourteen of the 18 canyons in the park feature waterfalls, with one of the most impressive in St. Louis Canyon. Visit in the spring or after a rainstorm for the strongest plunge over the cliff and into the shallow pool below. In the winter, the waterfalls turn into cool formations of ice. Trails are well-maintained, but be prepared for stairs. Explore more waterfalls and canyons in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Indiana: Big Clifty Falls
You wouldn’t think of agricultural Indiana as having spectacular water features, but the state has a number of unexpected beauties. Clifty Falls State Park in Southern Indiana has four, but the one known as Big Clifty cascades down several tiers before plunging over the cliff edge for a total of 60 feet. A powerful flume in spring, the falls trickles to a delicate bridal veil in fall. Either way, it’s an alluring sight to behold.
Iowa: Lake Macbride Waterfall
Technically a spillway, the water in this pretty spot cascades over rocks from Lake Macbride to the Iowa River. You can walk or kayak to the falls, but swimming is only permitted in designated areas of the lake. In a state that’s associated with flat land (although it’s hillier than most realize), these falls are an unexpected Midwestern gem. For more to do in Iowa, visit the ice cream capital of the world: Well’s Dairy.
Kansas: Cowley Lake Waterfall
As with most other heartland states, Kansas isn’t just a low prairie: The state also has some of the most beautiful waterfalls around. Cowley Lake Waterfall is particularly active after a heavy rainfall when the lake overflows into the stream that leads to a 25-foot drop. It can be viewed from above in an easy walk from the parking area, or you can carefully hike down to the bottom.
Kentucky: Cumberland Falls
This 125 foot-wide curtain of water falls over 60 feet in southern Kentucky. Easily accessible by a short walk, the falls are also viewed from trails around Cumberland Falls State Park. The spot is most famous for its monthly “moonbow,” a rare phenomenon that occurs when the full moon reflects off water droplets on a clear night. This is one of the few locations in North America where the phenomenon reliably occurs. Check with Kentucky State Parks for dates and times to view the lunar rainbow. Here are more bizarre natural phenomena, explained.
Louisiana: Kisatchie Falls
Courtesy Erich Vallery, United States Forest Service
The rocky bayou in Kisatchie National Forest features some of the most rugged terrain in low-lying Louisiana and includes one of the state’s only waterfalls. Gently flowing over the rocks, the babbling fall is the stuff sound machines are made of. Plus, the creek’s sandy banks are perfect for a day relaxing and wading in the water. Nearby, visit another hidden gem in Louisiana: Los Adaes State Historic Site.
Maine: Billings Falls
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Gulf Hagas, a 400-foot deep gorge, contains four named waterfalls including the stunning Billings Falls. The area is part of Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, located near the Appalachian Trail’s northern endpoint and considered the AT’s most remote section. (Read more about the best hikes across America—and the best times to go.) Billings Falls is reached by a rather slippery climb around the gorge’s rim, but hikers will be rewarded with impressive views of the plunging water and numerous swimming holes along the way.
Maryland: Kilgore Falls
This serene locale is an easy half-mile hike in the Falling Branch area of Rocks State Park. The best part? Swimming in the pool under the 17-foot Kilgore Falls is allowed, making it the perfect summer spot for cooling off. Its popularity means you won’t be alone, and you’ll want to get their early. The small parking lot has space for the number of people the falls’ habitat can safely handle. If the parking lot is full when you get there, you’ll have to come back another day.
Massachusetts: Bash Bish Falls
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Bash Bish Falls is touted as the highest single-drop in the state—although it’s really not one, but two plumes of rushing water that split dramatically around a large boulder. Located in the Berkshires near the New York border, this pristine falls can be accessed from above or below, although the lower trail is easier. The deep emerald plunge pool beckons, but unfortunately, swimming isn’t allowed in this woodland paradise. Go early in the day to get the place to yourself, or visit when the sun is brightest and see the water at its most vibrant. Think “Bash Bish” is an odd name? Find out more funny town names from each of the 50 states.
Michigan: Tahquamenon Falls
You know that a spot is special when it earns mention in a classic American poem—in this case, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.” Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula pours over the edge at a rate of 50,000 gallons per seconds at peak flow. The amber waters get their peculiar color from the tannins in the surrounding cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees, and that accounts for the nickname “root beer falls.” Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that there’s a brewery and pub right on the State Park’s grounds. Avid climbers will want to visit Michigan’s Agate Falls as well.
Minnesota: High Falls
Minnesota tops the list of the happiest states in America. Could it be in part due to the state’s sensational scenery? At the northeastern-most tip, almost at the Canadian border, lies its tallest waterfall, the 120-foot High Falls in Grand Portage State Park. Easily accessible (even for wheelchairs) along a 1/2-mile paved trail, the falls paint a dramatic picture of unspoiled wilderness. More difficult trails explore the rest of the park around the Pigeon River, which was an important area in the early American fur trade.
Mississippi: Clark Creek Falls
The rugged and hilly terrain of Clark Creek Natural Area is uncharacteristic of Mississippi, and adventurous visitors are pleasantly surprised by the park’s 50 waterfalls, ranging from 10 to 30 feet high. To really experience their beauty, wear water shoes suitable for hiking and walk in the creek bed itself. But be sure to bring an extra set of dry clothes—and bug spray! (Here are trendy mosquito-repelling products you’ll actually want to use.)
Missouri: Johnson’s Shut-Ins
Missouri may be the US state everyone forgets when listing all 50, but once you’ve experienced the unforgettable Johnson’s Shut-Ins, it will be top of mind for scenic water formations. The unique landscape of the area was formed when the East Fork of the Black River hit large volcanic rocks more than a billion years ago. The rocks were so hard that water couldn’t erode them, and instead the river was “shut in” around them. Today, the water continues to tumble over the rocks, creating waterfalls, chutes, swirls, and pools so exhilarating, no man-made water park can compete. Check out these other naturally gorgeous rock formations around the world.
Montana: St. Mary Falls
Called the “crown of the continent,” Glacier National Park features unbelievable waterfalls, lakes, and streams, as the area is the headland for waters that flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Canada’s Hudson Bay. Although it’s hard to choose the most beautiful, St. Mary Falls is our pick because of its scenic but fairly easy hike, and its amazing ice-blue waters. (Read about more spectacular summer hikes.) The tiered falls rushes through a gorge before passing under a footbridge. A bit downstream from the falls is a wonderful swimming spot, if you want to brave the cold water; or, continue up the trail to Virginia Falls, another of the park’s beauties.
Nebraska: Smith Falls
“You’d never know it was here!” seems to be the refrain from those who’ve visited Smith Falls. Tucked away in north-central Nebraska next to the Niobrara River—a popular spot for kayaking and tubing—the waterfall is the state’s highest, at 70 feet. A boardwalk makes for an easy trail to the falls, where a staircase invites you to walk down to the base, throw off your shoes, and dip in your toes. The mist coming off the fan-shaped falls is heaven on a hot day.
Nevada: Hunter Creek Falls
You might not expect to trek a muddy trail to Hunter Creek Falls in dry Nevada—but get those hiking boots ready. And be prepared for stark changes in temperature. The moderate three-mile trek near Reno puts you in the sun for most of the way, then cools you off as you enter the woods near the falls. After several water crossings, you’ll reach the waterfall, and the lovely forest setting will have you wondering if you’ve been transported to another world! If you visit in winter, don’t be surprised to find the area snow-covered, when the fall turns into an other-worldly ice sculpture. Here are more surprising places you’d never believe it’s snowed.
New Hampshire: Diana’s Baths
Diana’s Baths, one of the best swimming holes in the whole country, is a heavenly spot fit for its Greek goddess namesake. (Visit other mystical destinations that truly inspire awe.) The water flowing over smooth boulders creates slides, chutes, plunges, and countless pools to soak in. Try jumping into the 10-foot deep “pothole”—with your head above water, it will look as if you’ve sunk in quicksand! Sliding down the rocks is a favorite pastime for the energetic, or simply let the falls run over you as you relax.
New Jersey: Buttermilk Falls
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There’s a reason New Jersey is the called “Garden State.” (Pop quiz: Can you guess each US state from its nickname?) You’ll endure a bumpy road on the way to Buttermilk Falls. Near the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, it’s a little hard to find, but once you make it to the parking lot, you’ll see the falls, cascading down the mountain right at the start of the trail. If you wish to hike further, steep steps will take you to the top, where the path connects with the Appalachian Trail for some beautiful views. Visit in the spring if you want to see the strongest flow.
New Mexico: Sitting Bull Falls
This spot is a true desert oasis. After a long and dusty drive, visitors to this recreation area will be treated to the sounds of flowing water and the sights of a beautiful, clear swimming hole beneath 150-foot falls (don’t forget your swimsuit!). The water comes from springs in the canyons above. Hiking trails around the area offer the opportunity to explore further—if you can tear yourself away from the falls.
New York: Rainbow Falls
Niagara Falls is impressive, but for sheer gorgeousness the prize goes to magical Watkins Glen and its 19 waterfalls, including the fairytale-like Rainbow Falls. (Read about more enchanting places that look straight out of a fairy tale.) Located in the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen was created when an ancient stream carved a gorge of 200-foot cliffs and undulating, layered rock. A pathway of tunnels, bridges, and stairs spring up out of the landscape (or perhaps they were built by elves?) and wind over and under the falls along a narrow passage.
North Carolina: Turtleback Falls
This is one state that seems to have more than its fair share of stunning waterfalls, including Whitewater Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Elk River Falls, and Skinny Dip Falls. But Turtleback Falls near lovely Gorges State Park (where the trail to the falls begins) earns the top spot for its unique, rounded turtle-shell shape, which allows visitors to slide down and over the 20-foot plunge to the pool below. This natural formation rivals all the coolest water slides in the world, so be sure you’re a strong swimmer if you attempt the feat! Along the nearly two-mile hike to get there, you’ll also pass lovely Hidden Falls and towering 150-foot Rainbow Falls.
North Dakota: Mineral Springs Waterfall
Courtesy Michele Maki
Unlike its alphabetical predecessor, North Dakota has a grand total of one waterfall in the entire state: Mineral Springs Waterfall in Sheyenne State Forest. It’s not easy to find, and hikers who manage to locate it will be rewarded with a small trickle from an underground spring, as its name suggests. North Dakota may be short on waterfalls, but it’s one of five states with America’s best road trips.
Ohio: Robinson Falls
The Hocking Hills area of Ohio has many incredible waterfalls, but perhaps most intriguing of all is Robinson Falls, also called Corkscrew Falls, in Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve. The trail to the falls requires a free permit, but this extra step nearly guarantees you’ll be alone when you arrive. Don’t bother bringing bathing suits; to protect the pristine ecosystem, swimming isn’t allowed. But the tranquil falls plunging through a mossy gorge to the aqua pool below is a photographer’s paradise. Think this waterfall is beautiful? You have to see these other gorgeous photos that perfectly capture the beauty of spring.
Oklahoma: Turner Falls
Oklahoma has a surprising number of incredible waterfalls, none more so than Turner Falls. Although it looks man-made (how could anything this perfect be real?), the 77-foot drop into a large, calm, turquoise pool below was made by Mother Nature. The park features swimming in the pool, and you can also explore the surrounding caves and hiking trails to get a view of the falls from above.
Oregon: Multnomah Falls
Mother Nature outdid herself when she created these falls, which plummet 611 feet in two steps. The upper fall plunges 542 feet and the lower fall 69 feet, making Multnomah Falls the highest waterfall in Oregon and second highest in the nation. It’s a sight that deserves to be seen, and it is, by more than two million visitors each year. Unfortunately, that gives the two-tiered natural masterpiece—just 30 minutes from Portland—a reputation as a tourist trap. To avoid the crowds, go mid-week or in the rain, or get away from the throngs in the main viewing areas by hiking the trails around the falls. (Note: Some areas may still be closed due to wildfires.) Visit more of the best family travel destinations in each state.
Pennsylvania: Ganoga Falls
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While the classic family destination Bushkill Falls deserves a mention for Pennsylvania, the top spot for water features in the state is scenic Ricketts Glen. The 13,050-acre state park’s 22 waterfalls include the 94-foot Ganoga Falls, a multi-tiered cascade that rambles down the forested hillside. Most of Ricketts Glen’s falls can be viewed via the Falls Trail, but use caution—the paths can be quite slippery and narrow, so make sure you’re wearing proper footwear for hiking. For more to see in Pennsylvania, here’s your day-by-day guide to the perfect family weekend.
Rhode Island: Stepstone Falls
Many of Rhode Island’s waterfalls are formed by man-made dams, but this gentle one is all natural. Located in Arcadia Management Area, the falls look like steps (hence the name Stepstone Falls) thanks to the way the water slides over flat ledges of rock. Easy hiking along level but lush trails leads to this tranquil spot. (But bring bug spray!)
South Carolina: Issaqueena Falls
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Impressive Issaqueena Falls is a short 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the viewing platform. The 200-foot cascade fans out as the water flows down the rocks to the pool below, which is a favorite local swimming hole. Scrambling to the bottom of the falls can be a bit tricky, so use caution. The falls are named after the legend of Issaqueena, a Native American woman who pretended to go over the falls to escape persecution after she warned a nearby fort of an impending attack from her tribe. Many versions of the story exist, and historians don’t know for sure if she was real. If you love local lore, here are the best American cities for history buffs.
South Dakota: Roughlock Falls
This spot is considered one of the most beautiful in the Black Hills of South Dakota, formed where Little Spearfish Creek flows into a canyon. The falls drop over a 50-foot cliff and then gently cascade further down the rocks. A short, handicapped-accessible trail from the top leads to a viewing area. You can hike from there to the bottom, or for a longer jaunt, approach the falls from a mile-long trail below. Did you know that nearby Mount Rushmore is technically unfinished—find out what it was supposed to look like.
Tennessee: Cummins Falls
Dazzling Cummins Falls features a 75-foot plunge into a gorge, forcing water to cascade over numerous rock ledges that become perfect chill-out spots on a hot day. You’ll have to share the swimming hole with numerous other waterfall-chasers in summer months, but it’s well worth braving the crowds. Here are more incredible summer bucket list ideas you don’t want to miss out on.
Texas: Hamilton Pool
The water of this amazing natural pool and waterfall is impossibly blue and inviting. The pool is actually a collapsed grotto, and the 50-foot falls result as Hamilton Creek spills over the limestone ledge. You’ll need to make a reservation to visit the park. Swimming is allowed year-round, when rainfall and bacteria levels are appropriate. You can also hike the area and even walk behind the falls themselves. Check out more of America’s most beautiful places to visit in the spring.
Utah: Lower Calf Creek Falls
The canyons and unique geography of Utah make for some pretty amazing water features. Lower Calf Creek Falls tops the list for its oasis-like swimming hole at the bottom of a nearly 130-foot drop. Hike three miles along a mostly flat but sandy trail through the desert of the Grand Staircase-Escalante area to get to the spot, where the mist will instantly cool you. Then, strip down to your swimsuit and plunge into the refreshing water. If you think this place is unbelievable, check out more breathtakingly beautiful photos that represent the best of your America.
Vermont: Moss Glen Falls
There are two appealing waterfalls with the same name, Moss Glen Falls, in Vermont—one in Stowe and one in Granville—which can get confusing! Although both are lovely, Granville’s Moss Glen has a delicate, lace-like quality as it falls gracefully down an 80-foot cascade. Located in Granville Gulf Reservation, the photogenic falls is easily accessible by a short path.
Virginia: Falling Spring Falls
Virginia is for lovers—and waterfall lovers, thanks to the many splendid falls in the state. Falling Spring Falls in the rolling hills of the Alleghany Highlands is especially striking. Thomas Jefferson called it a “remarkable cascade.” The 80-foot plunge can be seen from the viewing area, with no hiking required. (Unfortunately, closer access to the falls themselves is now restricted.) Another reason to visit Virginia? It’s one of six places where you can still spot majestic wild horses roaming.
Washington: Palouse Falls
The sublime vista over Washington’s official state falls makes you wonder if you can believe your eyes. Palouse Falls has been in existence for more than 13,000 years and is one of the last remaining waterfalls formed by the glacial Ice Age floods. Today, the Palouse River drops 200 feet to a winding canyon, which visitors can witness with near 360-degree views from easy walking trails. Camping is limited to 11 first-come tent spaces, so if you can get in, it’s a special experience to spend the night. Here are more stunning places to sleep under the stars this summer.
West Virginia: Blackwater Falls
The mountains of West Virginia make for some particularly pleasing waterfalls, including the 57-foot Blackwater Falls. As with Michigan’s Tahquamenon Falls, the waters here get their “black” color from tannins from hemlock and spruce trees. Easy walking paths lead to fabulous views of the falls, while the hiking trails offer challenges for the rugged adventurer.
Wisconsin: Big Manitou Falls
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If the name of this falls sounds impressive, just wait until you see it! Located in Pattison State Park, Wisconsin’s tallest waterfall tumbles 165 feet into the Black River. And you’ll hear it first. Although it’s not a far walk, trees obscure the falls at first. Trails abound if you want to hike around or even climb down to the base of the falls.
Wyoming: Lower Falls of Yellowstone
Last but possibly most well known is the magnificent Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park. (For lesser known parks, check out these practically secret national parks.) At 308 feet high, the falls can be seen from various viewpoints in the area, including the aptly-named Artist Point; the view looks like a painting and has inspired many to try and capture its beauty. During Lower Falls’ highest flow, 63,500 gallons of water per second plunge over the falls. It’s truly an American landscape not to be missed.