Here’s a hot take: the year’s best hiking is still ahead of us! Hear us out…summer is great for long sunny days and cool lake or ocean dips. But as we slip into autumn, balmy days make for the perfect adventure weather, the trails aren’t quite as packed, the water is still refreshing for a swim, and nature begins to show off with fall colors! With the return of a little rain, the rivers start to fill again which means one thing: it’s the perfect time to go chase some waterfalls.
If you’re anything like us, you’re constantly dreaming up your next outdoor adventure. So, we rounded up an AllTrails playlist of some of the top waterfall hikes on our list to explore this season. Whether it’s a mile loop or an overnight adventure, a hike in your backyard or a roadtrip to somewhere new, a solo jaunt or a walk with your crew – these hikes should make for some pretty special days outdoors.
What’s amazing about so many of these waterfall hikes is that they’re fairly accessible – navigable by well-marked trails, and doable as a day hike. With that said, having the right gear for your adventure will not only keep you safe, but also ensure you have the best possible time out there. Here’s our must-haves for waterfall hikes:
The Teva Hurricane XLT2, for a cute and durable shoe that will take you from the trail to the water, and back again!
Because that cool pool at the bottom of the falls might just be calling your name, pack a Left On Friday bathing suit. We love that they’re insanely comfortable and self-proclaimed ‘playsuits’ that also ‘stay put’ (if you know what we mean!) for all your outdoor activities.
The right pack makes all the difference. The Gregory Jade 28 is one of our favorites, with plenty of space for water, snacks, and swimsuits!
Sun and bug protection, so you can focus on the fun stuff without worrying about a burn or a bite getting in the way of your day. We love to keep a set of the Kinfield Adventure Minis in our pack so we can have everything we need (from mosquito repellent to sunscreen) at the ready re-apply throughout the day!
The waterfalls we’re chasing this season
Cedar Creek Falls Trail – California
Nestled in the forest of San Diego County, this hike is about 5.5 miles round-trip and leads you through some pretty stunning backcountry hills to a canyon with an 80-foot waterfall and a pool at the base. This spot is known for being an epic swimming hole, which may feel like a bit of an oasis after hiking on hot and sunny SoCal days! Our hot tip? Pack plenty of water, and get started with the early birds to beat the heat.
Wallace Falls Trail – Washington
Only an hour outside of Seattle, Wallace Falls rushes over boulders and timber into an unbelievably crystal clear pool. You’re likely to see lots of friendly hikers and runners on this trail, and when it comes to viewing the falls, you’ve got options! Choose between three different viewpoints, and maybe even feel the mist on your face as you take it all in. The best part of your hike – you can bring your pup!
Hanging Lake Trail – Colorado
You get a lake and a waterfall at the top of this insanely beautiful hike through the mountains of western Colorado. The trail can get pretty steep, but with some good shoes and a little patience, it’s totally worth it to arrive at this beautiful spot. There are views for days, and an emerald green lake with trickling falls to cool you off as nature’s shower before you head back down to your car.
Havasupai Trail – Arizona
Up for a bit of a challenge? The trail to Havasu Falls is about 14 miles, but the overwhelming review is that it’s one for bucket list! There’s gorgeous rosy terracotta-colored cliffs surrounding the waterfall, and an icy blue pool that greets you as you hike in. All of this…in the middle of Arizona’s desert. Yes, it’s real. There’s a reason this is one of the most famous waterfalls in North America, and here’s the unique feature: it’s on the land of the Havasupai Reservation, which doesn’t permit day hiking. If you want to see this beautiful natural wonder, it comes with a fun opportunity to backpack and sleep under the stars!
Kaaterskill Falls Trail – New York
A short but sweet 1.4 roundtrip hike through the Catskills takes you to Kaaterskill Falls. Fun fact: it’s the tallest waterfall in New York State! Artists, poets, and photographers have come to this waterfall for centuries to inspire their work and it also has special significance in the local Mohican indigenous community. Who knows, once you visit it, maybe you’ll find some new inspiration of your own!