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Learn about the best East Coast waterfalls and how to see them!
The East Coast is full of natural wonders, making it a great part of the United States to explore waterfalls! Here, we’ve rounded up the best East Coast waterfalls and included all the details about how to access them!
Best Waterfalls on the East Coast
Watkins Glen at Watkins Glen State Park
Contributed by Kelly Duhigg of Travel New York Now
“Looking for some of the best waterfall hikes on the eastern coast of the USA?
If so then head to the tiny town of Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
It is here that you’ll find Watkins Glen State Park, a stunning place that is home to over 19 different waterfalls, incredible stone bridges, and mesmerizing 200-foot cliffs. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places in the state and will make you feel like you’re in New Zealand, not New York.
So, if you’d like to see some of the best waterfalls in New York state for yourself, you can pay $8.00 to park in the designated lot or look for free parking on one of the town’s quiet side streets instead.
Then, as you enter the park, be sure to take awesome photos with Rainbow Falls -with an enchanting stone bridge in the background – before embarking on a stunning hike along the Gorge Trail.
It’s an easy, 2.4-mile hike with around 682 feet of elevation gain. It’s also one of the best trails in the park since it takes you through the park’s central canyon and past some of the most incredible scenery in the state.
And while this trail does consist of a well-maintained stone path, you will have to climb around 800 steps throughout your hike.
Accordingly, be sure to wear good hiking shoes since the stone path and steps here can get inundated with water from the surrounding waterfalls.
Then, afterward, be sure to drive a mere seven minutes down the road to see nearby Shequaga Falls too!
Also, this place gets pretty popular. So, to avoid the crowds, try to time your visit for a quiet weekday morning in late September or early October.
This way, you can access the trail before it closes for the season and will also get to enjoy the area’s vibrant fall foliage.
Hickory Nut Falls, North Carolina
Contributed by Leandro of Safari Nomad
The Hickory Nut Falls trail is one of the most notable in the state of North Carolina. It takes you to the bottom of the towering waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It’s worth it to reward yourself with a spectacular view from the base of this 404-foot scenic beauty. This is among the “must-see” when you visit Chimney Rock.
This 1.4-mile moderate hike takes about an hour and a half to do both ways round. A typical hiker will spend 45 minutes to an hour on this trail. It is an out-and-back trail. People with small children should go, but strollers or wheelchairs are not recommended. The track isn’t very steep, but there are a few moderate climbs, some rocks, and a small set of stairs at the starting point of the Hickory Nut Falls. Picnic tables, seats, and resting spots are spread out all over the trail, giving you a chance to take a breather, relax, and enjoy the scenery. Tourists can find rare and unique plants, birds, and animals in an area that is near the bottom of the falls.
If you want to have the best look at wildlife, be sure to take with you some of the best compact binoculars for birding. There are a lot of rare plants and amphibians living on the cool and wet rock face. It’s so worth it to cool off in the waterfall haze and take in the sights at the trail’s end.
Fall is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the cool autumn air and watch the leaves change color from green to amber, crimson, and flame-orange. The north-facing cliffs and chilly winter weather are perfect for colossal ice formations to grow on the tall cliffs. The Hickory Nut Falls might be frozen over after a cold snap.
The Hickory Nut Falls is definitely a hidden gem within the park. Because the falls are a portion of Chimney Rock State Park, your $17 fee gets you into both. Undoubtedly, your $17 is money well spent. It is a fantastic place to go for a trek all year long.
Crabtree Falls at George Washington National Forest, Nelson County, Virginia
Contributed by Merry Allison of Virginia Vacation Guide
Crabtree Falls is a popular waterfall located in the George Washington National Forest in Nelson County, Virginia, not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The waterfall is over 1,200 feet total in height, making it one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River.
There is a 2.5-mile loop trail at Crabtree Falls. Much of the trail ascends upwards along stone stairs located right beside the waterfall. There are several overlooks along the way to allow hikers to stop, take pictures, and let other hikers pass. Because much of the path is located next to the waterfall, it is a very scenic trail. However, the path is rocky, steep, and can be treacherous. Use caution and make sure to always stay on marked trails!
Hikers can either reach the falls on a 0.9-mile trail and then head back the way they came to the parking lot, or they can continue to walk the full 2.5-mile loop trail. Make sure to allow up to 1.5 to 2.5 hours to complete the full trail.
The longer 2.5-mile trail continues in a steep ascending switchback that runs beside the waterfall. The longer trail provides lovely up-close views of the waterfall. However, it is steep, rocky, and can get crowded. The trail then levels off and continues along Crabtree Creek before returning to the parking lot.
Crabtree Falls can be pretty crowded, particularly on weekends and in nice weather. Spring can be an excellent time to go to avoid the crowds in Summer.
There is a parking lot, which can fill up quickly on crowded days. There is also a donation box at the entrance to the trail where you can leave a $3 donation to support the park.
Note that there can be minimal to no cell service near the falls, so it is good to have an offline map saved, particularly when leaving the falls.
For more great outdoor activities, you can learn more about visiting the Best National Parks in Virginia.
Moss Glen Falls in Stowe, Vermont
Contributed by Tara Schatz of Vermont Explored
Located in the mountain town of Stowe, Moss Glen Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Vermont, cascading 125 feet through a gorge created by Moss Glen Brook. Stowe is a popular destination for tourists, and there are numerous waterfalls and mountain hikes in the surrounding area.
The falls can be easily accessed after hiking an easy 1/4-mile hike on a level trail, and once you get to the falls, there are numerous vantage points. You can view the falls from above or hike into the gorge for a little dip.
If you want to escape the crowds who can’t resist the falls on a hot summer day, backtrack on the trail and wade upstream along the riverbed into the gorge. The tall walls of the gorge will drown out the noise of other visitors, and you will have a beautiful, secluded view.
The trailhead is located on Moss Glen Falls Road, and the parking area is marked by a sign for the C.C. Putnam State Forest. There is no fee to hike to the falls, but this is a busy spot, so visiting in the early morning or during the week is recommended.
Great Falls at Great Falls Park, Great Falls, Virginia
Contributed by Julie McCool of Fun in Fairfax VA
Just 17 miles west of Washington DC, the Great Falls cascade over a rocky stretch of the Potomac River. The giant rocks create a jumble of waterfalls and churning shutes, which visitors can see from three dramatic overlooks. Great Falls is a National Park site, and all three waterfall overlooks are close to parking and a Visitor Center.
That convenient access makes Great Falls a very popular park, especially during cherry blossoms season and on warm weekends. Great Falls Park is beautiful year-round, and the waterfall views are always changing. In summer, visitors may see expert kayakers navigating the waterfalls. But after storms and snowmelt, the water rages, almost entirely covering the rocks.
The best way to see the park is with a hike on the Great Falls River Trail, which follows the rocky banks of the Potomac from the waterfall overlooks through the beautiful Mather Gorge and beyond. In Mather Gorge, the river is squeezed between walls of stone, offering hikers spectacular cliffside views. Further on, the trail follows the cliff edge and then climbs the banks to another excellent viewpoint. Hikers can use connecting trails to create several different loop hikes in Great Falls Park. Take an easy 1-mile loop hike to the Mather Gorge Overlook or a longer 3.5-mile loop to the park’s edge. In addition, the River Trail is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, so hikers could continue all the way to the edge of DC.
There is a $20 per vehicle entrance fee to Great Falls Park (7 consecutive days of entry), and National Park Passes are accepted. The pass also covers access to the Maryland side of Great Falls.
Ozone Falls in Rockwood, TN
Contributed by Candice Steele of CS Ginger
Eastern Tennessee is known for its beautiful waterfalls, and Ozone Falls is no exception. It is part of a 43-acre natural area about two hours away from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you don’t want to hike, this is an accessible waterfall to see just off the side of the road. The viewpoint of the falls without hiking is from the top.
If you are up for hiking, the hike to the base of Ozone Falls is short but is considered a moderate hike because of the steep elevation gain and rough trail conditions. You will need to climb over boulders to get down to the waterfall’s base. The trail length is 0.3 miles with an elevation gain of 111 feet.
There is a free parking area just across the street from where the hike starts, known as the Ozone Falls State Natural Area. This is not typically a busy waterfall.
The summer is a great place to visit because you can swim in the waterfall or play in the river downstream. The water is very cold, and the currents from the incoming waterfall are strong. It is not a place for kids to swim. Kids will have a great time playing in the water downstream from the waterfall. There are also some nice rocky ledges surrounding the waterfall pool where you can hang out and enjoy the waterfall.
Ozone Falls is open from sunrise to sunset. There are not any amenities at Ozone Falls, including restrooms.
Linville Falls, North Carolina
Contributed by Sam Opp of Find Love & Travel
Located right off the famous Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, Linville Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls to visit and photograph! It is best to go early because of its popularity, especially during the fall! Additionally, if it recently rained, the trail can be very muddy. The hike is easy to moderate at 1.6 miles round trip walk with some elevation gain. When visiting, you will be rewarded with both the upper and lower falls!
You will start on the Erwins View Trail through the beautiful mountain forest. The trailhead starts from the Linville Falls Visitors Center. The hike is also dog-friendly as long as your pups are on a leash! The Erwins View Trail has four stops throughout. The first will be at the upper falls (about .5 miles), where you have a lovely viewpoint of the two smaller falls spilling over. You can also see where the lower falls funnel down through the rocks, but you can’t see the actual lower fall from this viewpoint. From there, you will continue on to the Chimney View outlook, where you will be able to see both the Upper and Lower Falls. The lower falls has a stunning 45 ft. drop.
Throughout the hike, you will also see the Linville Gorge, which is considered the Grand Canyon of the east coast! Best yet, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiking to Linville waterfall is free!
Franconia Falls White Mountains, New Hampshire
Contributed by Kate McCulley of New Hampshire Way
If you enjoy easy hikes with a big payoff in the middle of a visually spectacular road trip, make your way to the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire! The Kanc, as locals call it, is a 56-mile scenic byway cutting through the White Mountains with several outdoor sites and hikes to enjoy along the way. An hourlong drive along the Kanc quickly turns into an all-day adventure!
And one of the best waterfall hikes along the Kancamagus Highway is Franconia Falls. Beginning close to the town of Lincoln and the western end of the highway, the Franconia Falls Trail is a 6.8-mile out-and-back trail. It may be one of the longer hikes in the area, but it’s an easy, mostly flat hike and great for beginner hikers or kids. Part of the trail is along a former railway bed.
Eventually, you reach Franconia Falls, with a perfect waterfall the width of a human body spilling into a large pool, making it a perfect swimming hole! Head upstream, and you’ll find even more swimming areas that are comfortable for kids and adults alike (not to mention pets — dogs on leashes are very welcome here!).
Franconia Falls is a year-round trail, though keep in mind that you’ll want to do this hike in the summer if you want to swim. (Then again, New Englanders are known for plunging into cold water 12 months out of the year!) The most beautiful time of year is during fall foliage, and fall colors in the White Mountains tend to peak in the first two weeks of October. Bring spikes in the winter; keep in mind that spring is “mud season” until May or so.
If you’re looking for more waterfall hikes along the Kancamagus Highway, don’t miss Sabbaday Falls and Champney Falls, and roadside stops at Rocky Gorge and Lower Falls.
It’s free to hike to Franconia Falls, but keep in mind that parking in the White Mountain National Forest is $5 per day. It’s based on the honor system with envelopes at stops along the highway; bring a five-dollar bill! You’ll find plenty of parking along the roadside close to the trailhead.
Dark Hollow Falls Shenandoah National Park
Contributed by James Ian of Parks Collecting
Dark Hollow Falls is not only one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park, it is also one of the few falls there that flows all year. The waterfall, a 70-foot-tall series of cascades, is surrounded by thick foliage and is one of the most picturesque waterfalls you’ll find. The water pools at the bottom before continuing to flow downhill, and there are several places to get a great photo of the cascades.
The falls are reached by a fairly steep 1.5-mile round trip hike alongside the creek that forms the falls. The trail is beautiful throughout the year, but especially pretty in the fall, when the whole forest turns a gorgeous golden color. The falls themselves are most impressive in spring when they are fuller from snowmelt and after heavy rain.
You first reach the top of the falls, but it’s worth the steep climb down to the bottom of the waterfall, where you get the best views. The hike back up to the trailhead can be challenging – take your time.
This trail is the most popular hiking trail in the national park, so you won’t be alone. The trailhead, with a good-sized parking area, is located at Mile 50.7 on Skyline Drive. There is a $30/ vehicle entrance fee to enter the national park, but no additional fee to hike to the falls or park your vehicle.
Kaaterskill Falls Northern Catskill Mountains
Contributed by Ian James of Hudson Valley Discovered
Kaaterskill Falls is a two-tiered waterfall that, at 260 feet in total, is the tallest waterfall in New York State. The upper falls are 174 feet tall, taller than Niagara Falls! They’ve been painted by Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of Art, and written about by the legendary Washington Irving.
The falls are located in the Catskill Mountains near the Hudson Valley. They can be accessed from above or below. From the bottom, it’s a steep 1.4-mile round trip hike to the base of the falls. The small parking area there is closed until further notice, so currently, the best way to access them is from the top. There are two larger parking areas at Laurel House Road and Scutt Road. Parking is free.
It’s a short, mostly flat, walk from the parking lot to a viewing platform above the falls. However, the best views are from below. A steep path winds through the surrounding woods down to a pool at the base of the upper falls and then further down some steps to the bottom of the two tiers. The trail continues down to the lower trailhead, where another shorter but impressive waterfall is located.
Kaaterskill is one of the highlights of a visit to the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, so it does get crowded. Get there early to beat the crowds and ensure a parking spot. Don’t park on the side of the road – you may get towed.
The falls are beautiful throughout the year. They are their fullest in spring; smaller but still impressive in summer; they are surrounded by beautiful colored foliage in the fall and often completely frozen in winter. Wear traction on your shoes and enjoy stunning views of a frozen waterfall!
No matter when you go, you’re sure to be impressed by Kaaterskill Falls.
Little Bradley Falls in Saluda, NC
Contributed by Terri Markle of FemaleSoloTrek.com
Little Bradley Falls is a hideaway located off the main highway to Saluda, North Carolina. The only clues that this is a “must-see destination” are the cars parked everywhere. Ask any hiker if you aren’t sure where to enter the trail. You can also try to find parking on the side of the road. It is a 2.4-mile hike to burrow deep into Saluda’s forests to find the waterfall. The hike is a challenge if you are afraid of snakes! Keep an eye out on where you put your foot down near the rocks, which you must scramble over. In addition, it is a good idea to wear surf shoes as you will need to straddle a creek to get over to the other side. The creek crossing is slippery. If you try it barefooted, you might cut your feet on the rocks. The reward is the 50-foot waterfall.
You’ll see people on the upper tiers who are walking and running along the ridge but don’t risk a fall. But you can bring a swimsuit to splash in the shallow end. This is an ideal place for a picnic in the shade during the summer. Symphony is nature’s waterfall. It is also easy to get lost and head for Big Bradley Falls Trail, which is across the street. It is not currently allowing hikers. There are concrete barriers blocking the way. There is no fee to hike in Bradley Falls. This is a year-round destination to visit, but summer is the best season since you can cool off in Western North Carolina.
Champney Falls Conway, New Hampshire
Contributed by Christine of Live Love Run Travel
Champney Falls is one of the best waterfalls in New Hampshire. It is beautiful any time of year, but it is even popular in the winter. This is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in New Hampshire and well worth the climb to get there.
The hike itself is easy to moderate, depending on the time of year. If you are going in the middle of winter, the water crossings are frozen over, making it more accessible. If you go in the summer or fall, the water levels are often lower, making the water crossings less difficult. However, as the snow melts, the water is deeper, and the crossings are more difficult.
The hike is about 3.1 miles out and back and includes 680 feet of elevation gain. The way to the waterfall is uphill, but the way back is downhill.
There is a $5 fee to hike to Champney Falls. You will pay online at the trailhead using the QR code posted on the sign.
This waterfall is beautiful any time of year. In the fall, you can experience the fall colors as you hike through the White Mountains. In the winter, the waterfall ices over and takes on a whole different look.
This waterfall is popular, but the hike’s length and the climb keep the numbers down compared to the easier and shorter hikes in the area. If you visit in the busier seasons for New Hampshire, you are likely to find others on the hike. Visiting in winter means you are more likely to have the trail to yourself.
Blackwater Falls at Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia
Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia is one of West Virginia’s most visited state parks because of its namesake waterfall! Blackwater Falls is one of the best waterfalls on the East Coast because of its beauty and its accessibility.
The falls can be accessed via the Blackwater Falls Boardwalk Trail. The trailhead is located at the Trading Post and offers plenty of parking. The trail is only 0.25 miles but includes 200 steps on the boardwalk.
Blackwater Falls is busy throughout the seasons but tends to be less busy in the winter and spring. During the winter, the falls will freeze over, which makes for beautiful photographs. However, the boardwalk to the falls is not maintained in the winter so it can get snow-covered and icy.
Blackwater Falls bursts with fall foliage colors during the fall and looks stunning among the green trees in the summertime.
Blackwater Falls State Park is 3 hours from Washington DC and 1.5 hours from Morgantown, WV! There is no fee to enter Blackwater Falls State Park
Which of these East Coast waterfalls will you visit next?!