15 Amazing Waterfalls in California

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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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.

1. Yosemite

Yosemite FallsSource: A.Hornung / shutterstock
Yosemite Falls

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.

Height: 2,400ft

Hike Distance: 4 miles

Location: Yosemite National Park

2. Brandy Creek

Brandy Creek FallsSource: 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.

Height: 25ft.

Hike Distance: 1.5 miles

Location: Whiskeytown

3. Alamere Falls

Alamere WaterfallsSource: Ryan Kelehar / shutterstock
Alamere Waterfalls

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.

Height: 30ft.

Hike Distance: 4 Miles

Location: Wildcat Beach

4. Mcway Falls

Mcway FallsSource: Mark R / shutterstock
Mcway Falls

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.

Height: 80ft

Hike Distance: 0.5 Miles

Location: Big Sur

5. Escondido Waterfall

Escondido FallsSource: Kevan O'Meara / shutterstock
Escondido Falls

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.

Height: 100ft.

Hike Distance: 2 miles

Location: Santa Monica Mountains

6. Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek, CaliforniaSource: Jimmy W / shutterstock
Cedar Creek

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

Kings Canyon National Park, Roaring FallsSource: 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.

Height: 15ft.

Hike Distance: 0.3 Miles

Location: Kings Canyon National Park

8. Vernal Falls

Vernal FallsSource: Roel Slootweg / shutterstock
Vernal Falls

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

Feather FallsSource: ray_explores / Flickr
Feather Falls

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 based on 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.

Height: 640ft

Hike Distance: 4.5/3.5 miles

Location: Plumas National Forest

10. Burney Falls

Burney FallsSource: melissamn / shutterstock
Burney Falls

Did you know that President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Burney falls the eighth wonder of the world after visiting it? The 129-foot falls feed on a spring about a quarter mile upstream, so are flowing year-round. Most of the flow of the Burney emanates not from the top, but from the middle two-thirds of its cliff, making it appear like springs from aquifers in the underlying basalt bedrock. Its scenic allure is furthered by the aquamarine color of the wide plunge pool.

Height: 129ft.

Hike Distance: .25 to overlook, 1 mile to base

Location: MacArthur-Burney Falls State Park

11. Kings Creek Falls

Kings Creek FallsSource: Julie Vader / shutterstock
Kings Creek Falls

King’s Creek is very popular with photographers and hikers alike. 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.

Height: 40ft.

Hike Distance: 3 Mile

Location: Lassen National Park

12. Grizzly Falls

Grizzly FallsSource: Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz / shutterstock
Grizzly Falls

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.

Height: 80ft

Hike Distance: 0.1 miles

Location: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, CA

13. Canyon Creek Falls

Canyon Creek FallsSource: 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.

Height: 120ft

Hike Distance: 4.9 miles

Location: Trinity Alps Wilderness

14. Eaton Canyon Falls

Eaton Canyon FallsSource: 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.

Height: 30ft.

Hike Distance: 4 Miles

Location: Angeles National Forest

15. Marble Falls

Marble Falls TrailSource: 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.

Height: 70ft.

Hike Distance: 4 Miles

Location: Sequoia National Park

15 Amazing Waterfalls in California:

  • Yosemite
  • Brandy Creek
  • Alamere Falls
  • Mcway Falls
  • Escondido Waterfall
  • Cedar Creek
  • Roaring rivers
  • Vernal Falls
  • Feather Falls
  • Burney Falls
  • Kings Creek Falls
  • Grizzly Falls
  • Canyon Creek Falls
  • Eaton Canyon Falls
  • Marble Falls