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Top view of powerful Vernal Falls set against the granite mountains and tall pine trees

The golden state of California is known for its stunning natural beauty from majestic mountains, sandy beaches, lakes, flower fields, city escapes, deserts and many more. Another major attraction of California is its abundance of breathtaking waterfalls. Waterfalls offer a perfect escape from city life and a refreshing respite from the summer heat. From the iconic Yosemite Falls to the picturesque McWay Falls in Big Sur, California is home to many stunning waterfalls and several hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

Having lived in California for over 15 years, I’ve explored every nook and corner of the state from San Diego to Mendocino to Eureka, hiking through lush forests, visiting national parks with wildflowers, sipping wine in Paso Robles and the wineries of Napa, enjoying romantic getaways as well as multitude of waterfalls. It took me a while to appreciate the true beauty of the waterfalls in California but once I did, I couldn’t stop exploring. This blogpost features the most majestic waterfalls you must see in California. From famous to lesser-known waterfalls like Alamere Falls near San Francisco and Burney Falls, you will discover the best waterfalls in California and hope you get to see some of them!

Contribution by Katelyn Kaehler of Kate Roams The World

Thin cascading waterfalls falling into the beach on the pacific coast.
  • Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, California. 
  • Distance: 13.7 miles. 
  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging.
  • Elevation gain: 1,815 feet.
  • Height of the waterfall: 40 feet.
  • Insider tips: Be sure to check the tide schedule. It is best to hike at low tide due to safety concerns since the ocean would come way too close to the shore while you would be hiking.

Alamere Falls makes for a fantastic waterfall day hike in Northern California. Especially on a sunny winter day while you’re waiting for the high elevation Eastern Sierra hikes to thaw out! The trailhead to Alamere Falls is located about 90 minutes North of San Francisco. The road to the trail is suitable for any car, but an SUV or car with a bit of clearance is more ideal due to some potholes on the dirt road. Following the original 14 mile trail, most will not find the terrain difficult, it’s just a long ~14 mile day! There is an offshoot/shortcut on this trail that cuts down significant mileage (~6 miles round trip), but this route is much more challenging and very steep with large drop offs. It is much safer to take the longer route. On the long route, 2.5 miles are flat along the beach.

Alamere Falls is one of only two waterfalls in California where the waterfall flows right into the Pacific Ocean, also known as a rare tidefall, making it very unique and totally worth the trip. Seeing the untouched coastline along the way makes the hike even more special and magical!

Contribution by Vanessa Shields of Traveling Ness

Beautiful view of waterfalls dropping into the sand and turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean
  • Location: Big Sur on California’s Coast
  • Distance: 0.5 miles 
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 20 feet
  • Height of Waterfall: 80 feet
  • Insiders Tips: Although you may find parking on Highway 1, it is safer to park in the designated parking lot at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the east side for $10 (free with a California State Parks Pass). For the best lighting, visit in the afternoon.

Taking a Big Sur road trip on Pacific Coast Highway 1 is one of the most scenic stretches of coastline in California. And one of the top places to stop at is McWay Falls offering a dramatic view. What makes McWay Falls so unique is that the waterfall cascades directly down onto a picturesque beach. With the waves crashing at the foot of the waterfall, it is one on the most photographed scenes in Big Sur. As an added bonus, you only have a short walk on a flat trail to reach the McWay Falls overlook. Visitors are to admire the waterfall from the overlook as climbing down to the beach is prohibited and dangerous. This is undoubtedly the most iconic waterfalls in California. Did you know that people travel from all over the United States catch a glimpse of this waterfall? It is truly a magical experience and a must visit on California Coast.

Contribution by Janice Lim of Where’s Janice

White waterfall flowing through the lush green forest
  • Location: Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County
  • Distance: 5.6 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Hard due to the continuous series of steps
  • Elevation gain: 1350ft
  • Height of the Waterfall: 20-30ft
  • Insider Tips:

Cataract Falls is located in the Mount Tamalpais area of Marin County. It is easily reached by driving across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, with great opportunities for hiking. The best time to check out these cascading waterfalls is in winter or spring after a rainy period. 

One of the most popular ways to see Cataract Falls would be by hiking from Rock Spring Trailhead (free parking), following the Cataract Trail all the way towards Alpine Lake. Enjoy the rush of the waterfall as you hike through the dense and mossy forest, and listen out to the sound of Cataract Creek beside you.

Do remember to bring enough snacks and water since you’ll be having quite the workout with that elevation gain. If you are concerned about the stairs, consider hiking from Cataract Trailhead at Alpine Lake. Alternatively, bring along hiking poles for assistance. 

Contribution by Jess of Uprooted Traveler

Beautiful waterfalls cascading down into a creek with trees
  • Location: McCloud
  • Distance: 3.9 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 337 feet
  • Height of the waterfall: McCloud Falls consists of three tiers—the Lower Falls is 12 feet; the Middle Falls is 50 feet; and the Upper Falls is 25 feet tall.

Located near the underrated Mount Shasta, McCloud Falls is one of the best things to do in Northern California. The trail is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure—you can choose to hike to as many or few of the waterfalls as you’d like or, alternatively, you can drive to each one as well. In the summer months, you can swim in the pools at the base of the Lower and Middle McCloud Falls—although be mindful of the current in the river and of the chilly water! Downstream from the waterfalls, you can also kayak down the McCloud River and take in the surrounding Ponderosa pine tree forests around you.

Cascading waterfalls falling into a pool in Northern California
  • Location: Potem Falls is located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California.
  • Distance: About 0.5 miles one-way from the parking area to the falls.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal, mostly a flat walk.
  • Height of the Waterfall: Approximately 70 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Wear good hiking shoes as the area around the falls can be slippery. Also, arriving early in the day can help you avoid the crowds.

Potem Falls, located within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, is an easy waterfall to visit in Northern California as it does not require a lot of hiking. Access to the falls is relatively easy, with just a half-mile walk from the parking area on a mostly flat trail. This 70-foot waterfall plunges into a clear, inviting pool below, making it a popular spot for swimming during the warm summer months.

Stunning cascading waterfalls falling into a blue pool surrounded by lush greenery
  • Location: McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park near Mt. Shasta.
  • Distance: 1.3 miles loop.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 100 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~129 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Hike the loop for best views and different angles of the falls.

Burney Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Northern California to visit all year round. The accessible 1.3-mile loop trail offers various perspectives of the waterfall, with an elevation gain of about 100 feet, making it suitable for most fitness levels. This is a busy trail so come early during the peak season of spring and early summer. Burney Falls is one of those waterfalls where you can just sit and take in all the beauty and truly relax. Do not miss the hike around the loop to get the most incredible views of the waterfall. The first time I went there, we only saw it from the vantage point but it was even more beautiful when we hiked the looped the second time.

  • Location: Oroville, Plumas National Forest.
  • Distance: Two trail options: the shorter route is about 7 miles round trip, and the longer loop is 9 miles.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 1,600 feet on the longer loop.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 410 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Start early to avoid the heat and the crowds. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and wear layers.

Feather Falls boasts a spectacular drop of 410 feet, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in California. Choose between a 7-mile round trip or a more challenging 9-mile loop to reach the falls, both offering a mix of forest scenery and panoramic views. The trail is considered moderate to strenuous with significant elevation gain, especially on the longer loop. Be prepared for this hike with plenty of water, snacks, and suitable clothing.

Waterfalls falling into the creek surrounding by trees and lush greenery
  • Location: Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.
  • Distance: ~ 3 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 500 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~100 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The trail can be rocky, so sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. Pack plenty of water and snacks for the hike.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is an underrated part of California but has so much beauty all around. Brandy Creek Falls, located in the scenic Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, is another beautiful waterfall in Norcal that cascades to about 100 feet. The 3-mile round-trip hike to the falls is considered moderate, with about 500 feet of elevation gain. Wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of snacks!

  • Location: Lassen Volcanic National Park, Northern California.
  • Distance: 2.3 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: 300 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: 30 feet.

This is a unique waterfall set in the backdrop of Volcanic landscape. The path, marked by rocky steps, can be slippery. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes. This trail is partially closed now, so please check for updates on the National Park Service website.

Beautiful waterfall falling into a pool set against the backdrop of rocks and mountains
  • Location: Dunsmuir, just off Interstate 5.
  • Distance: 0.25 miles one-way.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal, about 50 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: About 35 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The area behind the waterfall allows visitors to walk behind the cascading falls offering a unique feature perfect for photography. Parking is limited, so arrive early or on weekdays to avoid crowds.

Hedge Creek Falls in Dunsmuir, California, offers a quick escape to see a beautiful waterfall without a long hike. Located close to Interstate 5, it is a 35-foot waterfall that drops into a small pool below. The path to the falls is short, about quarter mile and flat, making it very manageable especially families with children. One of the highlights is the natural cave behind the falls that provides a unique view of the waterfall from a different perspective. This is one of my favorite waterfalls in California, the unique view from the cave is something you won’t find elsewhere!


Cascaded Mossbrae waterfalls in Northern California falling into the creek
  • Location: Mossbrae Falls is located in Dunsmuir, near Mt. Shasta.
  • Distance: Approximately 1.0 mile one-way from the nearest parking area to the falls.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate, primarily due to navigation along the railroad tracks.
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal, the trail is relatively flat.
  • Height of the Waterfall: About 50 feet.

Mossbrae Falls is a breathtaking waterfall located in Dunsmuir, near Mount Shasta. This hidden gem is a must-visit for nature lovers and adventure seekers. The hike to the falls is moderately difficult, but the stunning scenery and tranquil atmosphere make it well worth the effort.

Note that there is currently no legal way to access the falls. The trail to the falls is along the railroad tracks and can get dangerous due to train activity. A new trail is being planned to provide safer and legal access but date of completion is unknown.

Contribution by Jess of Uprooted Traveler

Huge Yosemite falls with full mist dropping over granite mountains and lush green trees
  • Location: Yosemite National Park
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 55 feet
  • Height of the waterfall: 2,425 feet
  • Insider tips: Given the park’s and the waterfall’s popularity, you should get here early to beat the crowds (and snag a parking spot!). You do not need to really hike to get a view of this waterfall. It is visible from the valley and several vantage points.

Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks—it’s so popular, in fact, you’ll generally need a reservation to get into the park from May through October. Part of the reason that visitors flock here is that it’s packed to the brim with incredible geological wonders, but, even if you have just one day in Yosemite National Park, you should absolutely carve out time to hike the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail to see this incredible waterfall. It is probably the most famous waterfall in Yosemite. It actually holds the title of the tallest waterfall in California and in continental North America. 

If you’re up for a challenge, you can alternatively hike the challenging Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, which takes you up to the brink of the falls and provides stunning views of the Yosemite Valley below. 

Top view of powerful Vernal Falls set against the granite mountains and tall pine trees
A trail covered by full of mist on the way to Vernal Falls
  • Location: Yosemite National Park.
  • Distance: 1.5 miles one-way to the top of Vernal Fall.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.
  • Elevation Gain: About 1,000 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: 317 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Visit in the spring or early summer to see Vernal Fall at its most powerful. Wear a poncho or waterproof gear as the Mist Trail lives up to its name, especially near the fall.

Yosemite National Park is a popular spot and home to many of California’s spectacular waterfalls. One of those majestic waterfalls is Vernal Falls, astunning 317-foot waterfall best appreciated in the spring. The hike to the top via the Mist Trail is a vigorous 1.5-mile trek that ascends roughly 1,000 feet, offering hikers both a challenge and a reward. The trail, known for its wet conditions due to the waterfall’s spray, makes waterproof clothing and sturdy shoes essential. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy the cool breeze and let your clothes dry in the warm sun. This is one of the best waterfall hikes in California and one of my favorite waterfalls! This is where I got to experience the powerful mist on a hike and what an incredible feeling it was!

For those seeking a longer hike, continue past Vernal Fall to Nevada Fall for additional stunning views of Yosemite’s natural beauty. Vernal Falls is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in California and is a must visit in Yosemite National Park.

Contribution by Cassie of Cassie’s Compass

  • Location: Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite
  • Distance: 4.7 miles roundtrip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Height of the waterfall: 1100 feet 
  • Insider tips: Minimal shade, so bring coverage and lots of water.

You’ve heard of the magic of Yosemite’s waterfalls. But have you heard of “Little Yosemite” just an hour north of Yosemite Valley?

Hetch Hetchy is the perfect place to escape the crowded part of the National Park while still getting stunning views and amazing waterfalls. Featuring a valley that looks very similar to Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy was dammed up and turned into a reservoir for the Bay Area in 1923. While the stunning valley has been replaced with a lake, the dam makes for an incredible day hike to Hetch Hetchy’s best waterfall, Wapama Falls.

To reach Wapama, you will park in the Day Use Lots on Hetch Hetchy Loop Road. While it is not as crowded as main Yosemite, in the summer months, you will still want to arrive early as parking is limited. From the parking, you will walk directly across the top of the O’Shaughnessy Dam – an experience that feels very similar to walking over the Hoover Dam!

The hike gets better from here, as the dam leads directly into a tunnel, and then onto the main trail. The trail is relatively flat, with only a 200-foot elevation gain. However, in times of high flow, if water is flowing across parts of the trail into the dam, watch out for slippery rocks.

During the entire hike, you circle the lake and have an incredible view of Kolana Rock (Hetch Hetchy’s Half Dome). 

Contribution by Shweta of Zest In A Tote

Woman admiring half dome and Nevada Falls on the Vernal trail
  • Location: Nevada Fall is in Yosemite National park, California
  • Distance: A 3 mile round-trip hike to Vernal Fall, and further a 7 mile round-trip hike to Nevada Fall. 
  • Difficulty: Moderately difficult to strenuous in parts
  • Elevation gain: 2000 ft
  • Height of the waterfall: 594 ft
  • Insider tips: Take the Mist Trail from the top of Vernal Fall to reach Nevada Fall and take the John Muir trail for different views (and bypass Vernal Fall) to come back to Yosemite village.

Nevada Falls is one of the many impressive waterfalls in Central California’s Yosemite National Park. The hike to the top of the Nevada Fall along the ‘Mist Trail’ is one of the most popular hikes at Yosemite. The impact of the waterfalls on the cliff face produces a great deal of mist which covers a wide radius. This popular hike originates near Happy Isles trailhead in Eastern Yosemite Valley. This is one of the best hikes in Yosemite and a great way to feel the burn.

However, Nevada Fall is not usually on Yosemite itinerary for first-time visitors since this waterfall can be reached only via a moderately challenging hike. Those who do attempt this trail are rewarded with spectacular, up-close views of two large waterfalls, enjoyable scenery along the Merced River, and unique views across Yosemite Valley.

View of Half Dome and Bridalveil falls with view of trees below and granite mountains.
  • Location: Yosemite National Park, near the entrance of Yosemite Valley.
  • Distance: 0.5 miles round trip.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 80 feet to the viewing area.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 620 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The waterfall is most impressive in spring when snowmelt swells its flow. Parking can be a pain. Come early or late in the day to find spots.

Many of California’s best waterfalls are in Yosemite National Park. Bridalveil waterfall is one of the first sights as you enter the magical Yosemite Valley. This waterfall is one of the park’s iconic natural features, with a dramatic 620-foot drop. The short, easy 0.5-mile round trip walk gives a close up view of the falls. The falls are super popular so plan to visit early morning or later in the afternoon to find spots. If you visit late afternoon, you might get lucky and catch the rainbow colors over the falls when the sun shines directly on the fall. This is undoubtedly one of the most stunning waterfalls in California and a must visit!

Incredible Horsetail falls shining bright orange amidst the black granite hills
  • Location: Eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California.
  • Distance: Viewable from various points, but the closest viewpoint is about 1.5 miles one-way from the El Capitan picnic area.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on the viewpoint.
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal for the primary viewpoints, but can be more if hiking closer.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 1,570 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The fall is famous for the iconic “Firefall” effect when the setting sun illuminates the waterfall and glows it orange. It is quite popular in February when this phenomenon occurs. Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot as this natural event attracts large crowds.

When the weather gods and conditions align in February, Horsetail fails offers one of the most spectacular sights for a waterfall. Standing at about 1,570 feet, the waterfall is stunning on its own, but it becomes a major attraction during the brief period each year when it glows orange at sunset, resembling a stream of fire. This “Firefall” effect draws visitors from around the world. Key tips for those planning to witness this event include checking the weather for clear skies, ensuring there’s been enough snow to feed the fall, and arriving early to claim a spot among the inevitably large crowds.

  • Location: Yosemite National Park, near Glacier Point.
  • Distance: ~ 4 miles one-way from the Glacier Point Road, accessible via the Panorama Trail.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 500 feet
  • Height of the Waterfall: 370 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Bring enough water and sun protection, as parts of the trail have limited shade. Consider combining the hike with a trip to nearby Nevada Fall or Half Dome for a full day of hike.

This is one of the underrated waterfalls in Yosemite National Park yet striking and beautiful. The hike is a bit longer but can be rewarding in the end. It is also less crowded than the other waterfall hikes in Yosemite Valley.

White waterfall flowing through the rocks and hills of Sequoia National Park
  • Location: Sequoia National Park
  • Distance: ~ 3.5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 500 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 1,200 feet
  • Insider Tips: The trail gets crowded on weekends. Be aware of and respect the wildlife like bears and marmots.

Tokopah Falls, set in the picturesque landscape of Sequoia National Park, drops dramatically in a series of cascades of 1,200 feet. The hike to the falls starts at the Lodgepole campground and stretches 1.7 miles, gaining around 500 feet in elevation. Visit in late spring or early summer when the snowmelt fuels a vigorous flow.

Mist falls at Kings Canyon flowing through the rocks and trees
  • Location: Kings Canyon National Park
  • Distance: ~ 4 miles one-way.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 800 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 100 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Start your hike early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day and the afternoon crowds.

If you want to be upclose to a waterfall, you must visit Mist Falls in Kings Canyon National Park. Be prepared for wet conditions on the trail close to the falls due to the spray, especially during peak flow. Visit late spring and early summer to get drenched in the mist from the waterfall and enjoy breathtaking views of this fall. Wear ponchos and sturdy shoes to handle the slippery, mist-covered path near the falls. Note that this trail is currently closed. Please check the website for reopening.

Incredible rainbow falls dropping into a creek surrounded by granite mountains
  • Location: Devils Postpile National Monument, near Mammoth Lakes.
  • Distance: ~ 2.5 miles one-way from the Rainbow Falls trailhead.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 100 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 101 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Consider early start as this can get busy and popular in the summer. Carry plenty of water and sun protection.

This is one of the prominent waterfalls in Devils Postpile National Monument and Mammoth Lakes area. The falls are named for the frequent rainbows formed in the mist, which can be seen midday when the sun is highest. Be sure to also visit the Devils Postpile basalt formation that is very close to this trail.

Striking waterfall up close with blue skies and rocks
  • Location: Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu.
  • Distance: ~ 3.8 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 400 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: The lower falls are 50 feet, while the upper falls are ~150 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The hike to the lower falls is straightforward, but climbing to the upper falls requires scrambling and is best suited for those seasoned hikers.

This popular waterfall hike is a fun 3.8 mile hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. You will be rewarded with two tiers of waterfalls – the lower and upper falls. Note that the hike to the upper falls is challenging. Parking is limited at the trailhead, so arriving early or on weekdays is highly recommended.

Beautiful cascading waterfalls flowing through gray rocks
  • Location: Pasadena.
  • Distance: 1.9 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 190 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~ 40 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The best time to visit is during the spring when the waterfall is more likely to have water.

Eaton Canyon Falls located in the Eaton Canyon Natural Area is a scenic and relatively easy hike suitable for families and casual hikers. The 1.9-mile round-trip hike starts at the Eaton Canyon Nature Center and involves stream crossings and walking over rocky areas, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear. This is another popular hike in Los Angeles area, so I highly recommend arriving early or on weekdays.

Paradise falls in Southern California set against a hill background and falling into the creek
  • Location: Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks.
  • Distance: 2.5 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: 260 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: 70 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Wear appropriate footwear as the area around the falls can be muddy and slippery.

This dog friendly hike is a fun and easy hike for families. It is a great way to spend the day in nature with family and friends. Swimming is not allowed in the pool beneath the falls.

  • Location: Near Mt. Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains.
  • Distance: 1.2 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Elevation Gain: 250 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: 75 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Wear sturdy shoes as the trail can be rocky and uneven.

San Antonio Falls is another perfect waterfall near Los Angeles. It is a relatively short hike to visit these cascaded waterfalls. While the trail is operational throughout the year, winter may not be ideal due to snow and ice.

  • Location: San Gabriel Mountains, near Tujunga.
  • Distance: 4 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: 700 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: Roughly 30 feet.
  • Insider Tips: If you are like me and tend to be clumsy, be extra cautious of loose gravel and steep sections. 🙂

The waterfall, standing at about 30 feet, is the highlight of a 4-mile round-trip hike that challenges with a 700-foot elevation gain. The moderate difficulty of the trail makes it a good choice for those with some hiking experience. Springtime or following rainfall are the ideal times to visit, ensuring the falls are at their most lively. The path involves multiple stream crossings, which add to the variety of the hike. Be sure to wear shoes that can handle water and mud.

Beautiful thin waterfall sliding down the rocks into a pool
  • Location: Death Valley National Park.
  • Distance: 2 miles round-trip .
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: 20 feet.
  • Insider Tips: Bring insect repellent as the area is surprisingly lush and green.

Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park presents a stark contrast to the arid surroundings typical of the area. The best time to visit is in the morning, which offers cooler temperatures and softer light for photography. The oasis-like environment around the falls supports more vegetation and wildlife than most of Death Valley and is quite lush. This is something you would not find in a typical desert like area so I highly suggest visiting this waterfall if you visit Death Valley. This waterfall is far from the other Death Valley attractions but I loved it nevertheless.

  • Location: Cahuilla Indians Reservation in Palm Springs.
  • Distance: 2 miles round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: 350 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: 60 feet.
  • Insider Tips: The trail requires an entrance fee; check the latest rates and regulations on the tribal website before visiting.

Tahquitz falls is located in the tribal lands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and is an Oasis in the desert. You can escape the desert heat while enjoying a stunning waterfall. The best times to go are during the cooler months from November to April to avoid the desert heat. Bring plenty of water, wear sun protection, and tread carefully as the trail can be rocky and slippery in places. This is a great waterfall to visit in Southern California and the Palm Desert. Be sure to check the local rules and regulations before visiting.

Tamarack waterfalls flowing from the top of granite mountains
  • Location: Within the Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Range near South Lake Tahoe, California.
  • Distance: 1 mile round-trip.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Elevation Gain: 200 feet.
  • Height of the Waterfall: ~150 feet

Tamarack falls is one of the underrated waterfalls in California and is usually less crowded than the others. The path leading to the falls can be tricky with slippery surfaces and loose gravel. This lesser-known location provides a peaceful alternative to the other crowded waterfalls of Yosemite or Sequoia Parks.

Late spring or early summer when the snow melts would be perfect time to see these waterfalls in full glory.

If you can only see a few waterfalls, I highly recommend Yosemite National Park’s waterfalls, which are some of the best in California. Burney Falls in Northern California is also a great waterfall to add to your list.

Central California has some of the most spectacular waterfalls. Yosemite National Park in Central California is home to several of the top waterfalls in California.

It depends on the location of waterfall and length of the hike. As a good practice, make sure you carry sunscreen, good shoes, hat, snacks and lots of water for hydration.

  • Check the local rules and regulations.
  • Get the required permits if any.
  • Stay on trails, do not litter and LEAVE NO TRACE!
  • Be prepared and notify others especially if going solo.

California’s waterfalls offer a stunning array of natural beauty, from the misty cascades to the falls nestled in the southern deserts. Each waterfall presents a unique scenery, whether it’s the dramatic drop of Yosemite Falls, the mist filled Vernal Falls, or the unexpected desert oasis of Darwin Falls. Whether you’re looking for a vigorous hike or an easy walk with incredible rewards in the end, California’s waterfalls cater to all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. Remember to check local conditions, respect nature by staying on designated trails, and enjoy the natural splendor these waterfalls have to offer.

Other California itineraries you might be interested in –

Best lakes near Lake Tahoe

Epic day trip to Santa Barbara

3 amazing days in San Diego

25 things to do in Lake Tahoe

50 things to do in San Francisco


Two beautiful waterfalls with an overlay that says "Epic Waterfalls in California"


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Hi there!

I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.

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