February 25, 2021 4 min read

Is there any better way to plan a road trip than to center it around a scenic natural site? The United States of America is teaming with breathtaking beauty, from purple mountain majesties to fruited plains, but by far some of the most amazing sites to visit in the country are its vast variety of waterfalls. With such diverse landscapes and geological features represented throughout the States, there’s no shortage of unique bucket-list sites van lifers will want to include in their next itineraries. 

There are so many amazing sites, in fact, that we’ve had to split this list up into multiple parts to be able to feature all of our favorites! Here in Part One of our series, we spotlight the American Southwest. Home to high and low desert plains, imposing craggy mountains, rolling hills, and idyllic beach-strewn coastlines, the Southwest is one of the country’s most iconic regions. Sporting landmarks like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, and Big Sur, just to name a few, it’s hard to find a landscape that’s as deeply ingrained in the American mythos.

For the sake of this list, the American Southwest includes: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. 


burney falls

Burney Falls

Shasta County, California

  • Located within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
  • Part of the majestic Cascade Range
  • Two layers of falls
  • Fed by underground springs
  • Lower falls formed by natural undercutting of horizontal rock layers
  • Large plunge pool with clear turquoise waters
  • 129 ft year-round plunge
  • Plenty of nearby camping and hiking options

Learn more about or visit Burney Falls


bridalveil fall

Bridalveil Fall

Yosemite National Park, California

  • Located within the Yosemite National Park
  • One of the most beautiful valleys in the world
  • Iconic American wilderness
  • 620ft year-round falls
  • Forms part of the Gates of Yosemite Valley
  • Across from the imposing El Capitan 
  • Famously photographed by Ansel Adams
  • Easily accessible 
  • Short walk from visitor parking lot
  • Not wheelchair accessible

Learn more about or visit Bridalveil Fall


yosemite falls

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite National Park, California

  • One of the tallest waterfalls in the world
  • 2,425ft fall
  • Most dramatic fall of the many in Yosemite
  • Visible from multiple sites
  • Accessible by car or hiking
  • Usually only active until mid-summer

Learn more about or visit Yosemite Falls

mcway falls

McWay Falls 

Big Sur, California

  • Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  • Some of the most beautiful scenery in the US
  • Short hike from Highway 1
  • 80ft fall into the Pacific Ocean
  • Many other linked hiking trails along the California coast  

Learn more about or visit McWay Falls

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

Marin County, California

  • Located in Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Coastal waterfall flows directly into the Pacific Ocean
  • Short trip from San Francisco
  • Beautifully scenic location
  • Campgrounds available nearby
  • Accessible via difficult 8-mile hike

Learn more about or visit Alamere Falls



Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls

Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona

  • A dramatic canyon oasis
  • Flows year-round 
  • Breathtaking scenery 
  • Iconic clear blue waters against brilliant red-rock cliffs
  • Located in the beautiful Grand Canyon
  • Situated in the Havasupai Indian Reservation
  • Not for casual hikers
  • 8+ mile hike in rocky desert conditions

Learn more about or visit Havasu Falls

Grand Falls

Grand Falls

Navajo Nation, Arizona

  • Located in the Painted Desert
  • On Navajo Nation land 
  • Known as “Chocolate Falls” due to its unique muddy flow
  • 185 feet tall
  • Only flows a few months of the year
  • Best viewed March through May
  • Hiking permit required to access the falls
  • Trail only accessible from somewhat rough dirt road
  • Accessible via short half-mile hike

Learn more about or visit Grand Falls


lower calf falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls 

Escalante, Utah

  • Located in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • First of two waterfalls in the area
  • 126 ft fall to pool beneath
  • Desert oasis
  • Plenty of other sites to see nearby
  • Lower Falls is largest of the two
  • Easiest to access with only moderate elevation gain
  • Swimming possible

Learn more about or visit Calf Creek Falls


upper calf falls

Upper Calf Creek Falls

Escalante, Utah

  • Located in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • Second of two falls in the area
  • Smaller of the two
  • Usually less crowded
  • Upper Falls is a more difficult hike
  • Accessible via 3-mile hiking path past prehistoric rock art sites
  • Swimming possible

Learn more about or visit Calf Creek Falls


stewart falls

Stewart Falls

Aspen Grove, Utah

  • Locate near Mount Timpanogos
  • Along the Alpine Loop
  • Accessible via a flat 3.5-mile hike
  • 40 foot fall from the cliffs above to a small pool
  • Kid-friendly trail
  • Open year-round
  • Frozen falls in the winter offers different experience

Learn more about or visit Stewart Falls



seven falls

Seven Falls

South Cheyenne Canyon, Colorado

  • Located in South Cheyenne Canyon
  • A series of seven cascading waterfalls
  • 181 feet of falls
  • Accessible via in-mountain elevator
  • 224-stair hiking path to the top of the falls also available
  • Showcases Colorado's unique geological beauty
  • Short trip from Colorado Springs
  • A privately-owned tourist attraction

Learn more about or visit Seven Falls


bridal veil falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Telluride, Colorado

  • Not to be confused with Yosemite’s Bridalveil Fall
  • 365-foot fall
  • The tallest free-falling waterfalls in Colorado
  • Hiking and off-road trails nearby
  • Historic power plant located at the top
  • Freezes in winter
  • Popular with ice climbers
  • Accessible via moderately difficult 2-mile hike

Learn more about or visit Bridal Veil Falls


Did we miss any of your favorite waterfalls in the Southwest? Let us know in the comments below!


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