Awe-inspiring cataracts in California, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, and Utah draw visitors with the thrill of cascading water.
There are no experiences more thrilling than the sight, sound, and feel of rushing water, or so say VIA’s adventurous readers. They sing the praises of awe-inspiring cataracts around the West.
AKAKA FALLS  Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island, Hawaii. "Glorious!" writes John Karachewski of Walnut Creek, Calif. "A well-maintained trail weaves gently down through bamboo groves, banyan trees, ferns, vines, colorful wild orchids, and birds-of-paradise to the 442-foot falls." (808) 974-6200.
ALAMERE FALLS  Point Reyes National Seashore, Calif. "A hike along a coastal trail rewards you with beautiful ocean views, forests and wildflowers, and then this magnificent waterfall shooting over a cliff to the beach below," says Duncan Sinclair of San Rafael, Calif. (415) 464-5100.
ATHABASCA FALLS  Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. "Its roar can be heard long before you approach," says Ralph Todd of Fair Oaks, Calif. "Though it’s neither the largest in width or height in either the United States or Canada, Athabasca Falls is truly awe inspiring—one of the real, but lesser known, attractions of the great parks of Canada." (780) 852-6176.
BURNEY FALLS  McArthur–Burney Falls State Park, Calif. "Every day a hundred million gallons of water fall into a mist-filled basin, dropping 129 feet in a wide and breathtaking tumult," writes Dot Lofstrom of Stockton, Calif. "Fed from underground springs, these falls are wonderful year-round." (530) 335-2777.
FEATHER FALLS  Plumas National Forest, Calif. "From a large platform you can enjoy a stunning view of this 640-foot waterfall tumbling into the valley, hear the sounds of rushing water, and feel its cool mist," writes Rebecca Hallsted of Stockton, Calif. (530) 534-6500.
HAVASU FALLS  Havasupai Reservation, Supai, Ariz. "Nestled at the bottom of the west end of the Grand Canyon, these glorious, thundering falls are a feast for the eyes—well worth the daylong round-trip hike," writes Patty McNeil of San Jose, Calif. (928) 448-2121.
HORSETAIL FALLS  Twin Bridges, Calif. "Its water originates in Desolation Valley far back in the Sierra, then cascades from a high mountain in the shape of a beautiful, long, white horse’s tail," says Barbie Ostrom of Lincoln, Calif. "It’s a lovely picnic spot." (530) 647-5415.
LOWER CALF CREEK FALLS  Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, Utah. "It may be a cliché," writes Dean Tutor of Park City, Utah, "but this 126-foot waterfall is truly amazing. An oasis awaits after an incredible three-mile hike past old rock art and some of the prettiest sandstone cliffs around." (435) 826-5499.
MCWAY FALLS  Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, Calif. "A crystal-clear stream emerges from a grove of cypresses, cascades 80 feet, and lands almost delicately on a pristine sandy beach below," says Marnie Schallert of Hidden Valley Lake, Calif. (831) 667-2315.
MESA FALLS  Caribou-Targhee National Forest, near Ashton, Idaho. "I’ve seen many waterfalls," says Diane Brown of Boise, "but nothing has impressed me more than the beauty and power of Mesa Falls. Even in July the amount of waterin the two falls here is impressive, with the sun making a rainbow in the spray." (208) 652-7442.
MULTNOMAH FALLS  Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, east of Portland. "Be sure to walk across the bridge that spans the valley between the upper and lower falls," suggests Betsy Ferreira of Fresno, Calif. "The falls drop 620 feet into a series of basins. The mist hits you in the face, while the rumble of the falling water vibrates in your chest—it is awesome!" (503) 695-2372.
RAINBOW FALLS  Devils Postpile National Monument, Calif. "The Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River pours over ancient lava flows here," writes Connie Millar of Albany, Calif. "Stately old-growth forests frame the falls and high Sierra peaks loom above." (760) 924-5500.
SHOSHONE FALLS  Outside Twin Falls, Idaho. "Spectacular!" reports Helen Lee of Jerome, Idaho. "A few miles to the northeast of Twin Falls, the Snake River plunges 212 feet over the 1,000-foot-wide horseshoe-shaped rim of these falls—50 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Spring is the best time here, before the river’s water is diverted to irrigate valley farms." (208) 736-2265.
SILVER FALLS  Silver Falls State Park, east of Salem, Ore. "Of the 10 falls here, you can walk behind four of them—South, Lower South, North, and Middle North Falls—and watch all that water pour down right in front of you," writes Debbie Vasen of Gresham, Ore. "You almost feel as if you are falling—a weird and amazing feeling." (800) 551-6949.
SNOQUALMIE FALLS  Snoqualmie, Wash. "Such a sight—270 feet of majestic beauty," writes Kelly Tampas of Belmont, Calif. "Not only can you admire the falls from an observation deck at the top, you can also hike down and view them from the bottom. I will definitely go back again." (425) 888-1555.
SWEET CREEK FALLS  Siuslaw National Forest, near Florence, Ore. "It would be hard to find a more beautiful or spectacular spot," writes Iris Bachman of Sacramento, Calif. "As you climb the gentle trail you see not one but 13 waterfalls, each one more lovely than the one before." (541) 902-8526.
TOKETEE FALLS  Umpqua National Forest, near Roseburg, Ore. "Surpasses all the others except Yosemite Falls," says John Kemper, Medford, Ore. "The upper fall goes into a rocky bowl formed by basalt columns, and the lower plunges 60 feet into a green pool." (541) 498-2531.
YELLOWSTONE RIVER  Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. "Both the upper and lower falls in Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon are amazing," says Lois Cernic of St. George, Utah. "The volume of water that goes over is tremendous—and what power!" (307) 344-2107.
Photography by Dennis Frates
This article was first published in March 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.